Spam Spam Spam

No SpamAnyone listening to Monty Python singing “Spam, Spam, Spam” forty years ago wouldn’t have realised that the name for this processed meat would take on a new meaning. It arrives in most e-mail in-boxes hourly. Spam is the bane of people who need e-mail to stay in touch.

Nuisance and scam e-mails are generally called Spam although they are also described as phishing, chain letters and Nigerian scams, depending on how they’re designed to extract money from the recipient. Fighting Spam is a tedious task but necessary to return e-mail to being a useful tool.

Protect Against Spam

Reducing Spam takes a mixture of common sense when using e-mail and preventative programs.

Sensible use means following a few rules when sending and receiving e-mail and advertising the e-mail address.

  1. Never reply to spam e-mail. Replying just confirms to the spammer that he or she has found a live address. They’ll invite you to “click here” if you want to be removed from their mailing list. Expect more rather than less spam if you do unless you are dealing with a well known organisation.
  2. Never click attachments to an e-mail unless you know and trust the sender and even then take care. Right-click the attachment and save it somewhere on your computer then check it with your anti-virus program before opening it – even if you know the sender.
  3. Hand out your e-mail with care. Don’t go to a dodgy site and type your work e-mail in a form. If you must go there, take out a free e-mail on Yahoo or Hot Mail and use it just for this site, discarding it when spam starts flooding in (as it certainly will).
  4. Obfuscate your e-mail on your web site. Spammers use automation to scour the Web, stripping e-mail address from web sites and collating them to add to their distribution lists. Talk to Netco about disguising the way your e-mail address is displayed on a web page.

5. Keep your security patching up to date. Microsoft’s Windows is immensely popular and so it’s exposed to more cracking attempts than other operating systems. As exploits are discovered, Microsoft plays catch-up and issues updates, called patches, to close the security flaws. Download them regularly from www.microsoft.com. If you run a Mac do the same although you’re in a small minority of users and so not quite so exposed but as Mac sales increase you will become more attractibe to a spammer. Perhaps sensing this, Apple no longer brays that its computers are unaffected by viruses.

Your e-mail these days is vital to your work so it’s difficult not to spread it around the place. You want people to stay in touch. To a spammer, your e-mail makes up the numbers. If a spammer sends 500,000 spam e-mails out overnight and even 10 recipients in 500 bother to read it and one in a hundred of those actually click a link in the spam and earn him or her a click-through royalty payment, that’s still a living. Worse, your click may trigger a malicious program to run on the computer. It’s all about numbers. You are only one of those numbers if you choose to be.