Press H to Hack: Unsolicited

Press H to Hack: Unsolicited

Raise your hands if you want to be a mail order spammer!

/ Casts suspicious eye into the TFT

….oh, right. Nobody. Well, that’s good. However, if you want to pretend to be a mail order spammer, you could do worse than fire up an experimental browser game called “Unsolicited” (NOTE: That’s a direct link to the game, and music will play in your browser unless you block plugins by default, which you really should).

In the game, you assume the role of a nameless office worker tasked with matching up information related to the spam you’re about to send out – all within an increasingly tight time limit.

I couldn’t help but feel a bit dubious as I worked out the correct locations for the timeshares, lottery “wins” and threatening debt collection notices before firing them off into the void. As it turns out, sending digitised versions of physical junk mail in games is bizarrely addictive to the point I was hoping there’d be email upgrades and automated spam tools. Alas, the game leaves you with paper and envelopes – the spam on offer here is most definitely of the printed variety.

Junkmail Spam: Not So Entertaining

The reality of unsolicited spam is extremely serious, and can have a huge impact on anybody affected by it. People often dismiss junkmail as an unwanted annoyance and little more, but for anybody opening up unsolicited mail it can end up in a variety of unwanted ways. Identity theft, financial fraud, threats and more besides can be the end result. Junk mail spammers often target the elderly and some of the numbers involved are astonishing – as is the level of sustained harassment aimed at certain individuals.

Indeed, the story of Unsolicited takes a disturbing turn about halfway in – given it was created for a Game Jam called “You are the monster”, I can’t say I’m surprised. The player is actually given a number of chances to just stop playing, or continue on at various points – unfortunately it seems I’m a monster, because I couldn’t bring myself to close the browser tab. Minus six thousand karma points, I guess.

Getting to grips with stamping out posted junk mail is a bit of a nightmare, and to some degree it really relies on people volunteering to self regulate. If your intentions are to bury people under a mound of spam, it’s not very likely that you’re going to bother with any of this. There are a few other methods available (UK / US), but by and large most people have to accept they’re going to be filling up the recycling bin with an awful lot of paper over the course of a year.

For anybody interested, here’s the full 48 hour development timelapse where you can see the design and development of the various spam missives:

To close, here’s a few more tips for escaping the clutches of the letterbox menace. Never reply to junk mail, by post or phone and treat random missives with the same scepticism you’d treat a 419 landing in your spam folder. The game above is entertaining; the real thing most certainly isn’t.

Christopher Boyd


Christopher Boyd

Former Director of Research at FaceTime Security Labs. He has a very particular set of skills. Skills that make him a nightmare for threats like you.