What happens when you receive an email that looks like spam, smells like spam, and reads like spam, but isn’t flagged as spam? Why, you take it to the ARG community, of course! Starting the week of October 9th, several people began receiving strange emails from someone called “Jumping Spider”. The emails in and of themselves seemed very random and made no sense. They contained a portion of a story, gibberish text, and broken sentences. I received one of these emails, and were it not for the fact that it wasn’t selling a product, I may not have taken notice of it at all. But thankfully, others at the Unfiction forums reported receiving the same email.
The email’s subject read: “Zetria Atrian and the Sparrow-Clam“, and contained what looked to be the first portion of a short story about a girl named Zetria, who in a dreamlike setting, watched a sparrow land softly on a sandy shore and turn into a clam, with which she began a fairly philosophical conversation, before it burrowed away.
The latter part of the email contains inconveniently cut lines of text that appears to be snipped from a chat session. And, amongst the narrative and the disjointed text, the email contains strings of random characters. It was quickly determined that the not-so-random characters are encoded in ROT-17 (see here for a brief explanation of ROT coding) and, when decoded, revealed what can only be described as computer commands, such as MAILSTART, FILELOAD, TRANSFERERROR, COREDUMP, and so on . It appears that whoever this “Jumping Spider” is, the emails are being created by some form of software, sending out portions of various texts.
Most bogglingly, however, is a code that’s appearing in each email, containing 12 characters – 3 sets of one number between 0 and 3, and three letters.