Fighting Spam Online
The Top 5 Rules that you should
employ online in fighting spam
Anyone with an email address is all to well aware of the increasing spam problem –
receiving unsolicited or so-called junk email
messages. Apart from being inbox-cluttering trash, such messages
are often the main conduits for viruses. Spam emails can also trick computer users into revealing the access
details to their financial records, thus becoming victims of phishing.
Here's more information on how you can fight spam.
The Spam Problem
How prevalent is Spam? According to Scott McAdams, OMA Public Affairs and
Communications Department (www.oma.org):
"Studies show unsolicited or "junk" e-mail, known as spam, accounts for roughly
half of all e-mail messages received. Although once regarded as little more than a nuisance, the prevalence of spam
has increased to the point where many users have begun to express a general lack of confidence in the effectiveness
of e-mail transmissions, and increased concern over the spread of computer viruses via unsolicited
|According to some research, about half of all emails
we receive are spam, although
if you are more exposed online this percentage is probably higher.
In 2003, President Bush signed the "Can Spam" bill, in December of 2003 which is
the first national standards around bulk unsolicited commercial e-mail. The bill, approved by the Senate by a vote
of 97 to 0, prohibits senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail from using false return addresses to disguise their
identity (spoofing) and the use of dictionaries to generate such mailers. In addition, it prohibits the use of
misleading subject lines and requires that emails include and opt-out mechanism. The legislation also prohibits
senders from harvesting addresses off Web sites. Violations constitute a misdemeanor crime subject to up to one
year in jail.
One major point that needs to be discussed about this: spam is now coming from
other countries in ever-greater numbers. These emails are harder to fight, because they come from outside our
country’s laws and regulations. Because the Internet opens borders and thinks globally, these laws are fine and
good, but do not stop the problem of fighting spam.
Five Steps to Fighting Spam
So what do you do about this, to protect your computer system from this growing
menace? Here are the top 5 Rules that you should employ to fight spam.
Step 1: Do what you
can to avoid having your email address out on the net
There are products called "spam spiders" that search the Internet for email
addresses to send email to. If you are interested, do a search on "spam spider" and you will be amazed at what you
get back. Interestingly, there is a site, WebPoison.org, which is an open source project geared to fight Internet
"spambots" and "spam spiders", by giving them bogus HTML web pages, which contain bogus email addresses
Here are a couple email spam fighting suggestions for
a) use form emails, which
can hide addresses or also
b) use addresses like
firstname.lastname@example.org instead of your full address to help battle the problem.
c) There are also
programs that encode your email, like jsGuard, which encodes your
email address on web pages so that while spam spiders find it difficult or impossible to read your email
Step 2: Get spam
There are many programs out there for this. (Go to www.cloudmark.com or www.mailwasher.net for
example.) You may also buy a professional version. Whatever you do, get the software. It will save you time. The
software is not foolproof, but they really do help. You usually have to do some manual set up to block certain
types of email.
Step 3: Use the
multiple email address approach
There are a lot of free email addresses to be had. If you must subscribe to
newsletters, then have a "back-up" email address. It would be like giving your sell phone number to your best
friends and the business number to everyone else.
Step 4: Attachments
from people you don’t know are BAD, BAD, BAD
A common problem with spam is that they have attachments and attachments can have
viruses. Corporations often have filters that don’t let such things pass to you. Personal email is far more "open
country" for spamers. General rule of thumb: if you do not know who is sending you something, DO NOT OPEN THE
ATTACHMENT. Secondly, look for services that offer filtering. Firewall vendors offer this type of service as
Step 5: Email
services now have "bulk-mail" baskets
If what you use currently does not support this, think about moving to a new
vender. The concept is simple. If you know someone, they can send you emails. If you don’t know them, put them in
the bulk email pile and then "choose" to allow them into your circle. Spam Blocking software has this concept as
well, but having extra layers seems critical these days, so it is worth looking into.