Spam is the unsolicited and undesired bulk messages you receive usually via your Email and internet connection. While the most widely recognised and annoying form of electronic spam is email spam, spam can also be found in other electronic messaging systems such as instant messaging systems, spam in blog comments boxes; and on
Some spammers spam for malicious reasons but most do it for profit. Spam is often used to promote products and money making schemes which are often scams. The biggest increase in spam in recent years has been e-mails offering recipients shares in obscure or sometimes bogus companies, often based in the USA. Spammers make money by investing in obscure companies such as Viagra companies and then sell on quickly once the value of stock has been boosted by investments from the victims of the spam who in turn see their stock value fall immediately afterwards. These spam mails are often known as pump and dump scams. These spammers may have become a victim of their own success though because as many more people become aware of the pump and dump scam they can lose out as the share price of such touted companies plummets.
Spam can carry computer viruses which can have a detrimental effect on operating systems. Bulk spam can clog up operating systems and create havoc in business communities, resulting in financial losses. Companies have faced temporary or complete closure of their businesses due to unprecedented high levels of spam jamming their
Preventing spam completely is difficult and requires regular monitoring but here are some top tips to get you on the way:
Get a security package including an e-mail filter
Give your e-mail address only to people you trust
Set up a second e-mail account for filling in online forms
Ensure your main address is kept private
Delete unsolicited spam e-mails immediately. Do not even read them
Never respond to spam - spammers use your reply to confirm your account is active and will bombard you with more spam
Spam can be managed if your ISP adopts authenticated SMTP systems and demand that others do too
Spamming is widely reviled throughout the world and has been the subject of various legislation in many countries; however legislation as it stands is largely seen as toothless. Fines are not much of a deterrent to big time spanners and prosecutions have been non existent in most territories including
Firewalls and greylisting are more productive than relying on legislation. ISPs, businesses and individual consumers can take very effective measure to protect themselves so do not think all is lost. Greylisting is one of several developments which is likely to have a beneficial impact on combating spam.
Greylisting or graylisting as it is sometimes know is a cheap and effective means of defending electronic mail against e-mail spam. A mail transfer agent which uses greylisting will temporarily reject any email from a sender it does not recognise. If the mail is legitimate the originating server will try to send it again later, at which time the destination will accept it. If the mail is from a spammer it will probably not be resent hence cutting down on your spam problem. Any subsequent attempts are more likely to be detected as spam by other systems as well. Greylisting requires little configuration and modest outlay but it is only designed as a partner to existing defences and not as a magic cure. One possible downside is that it may block legitimate mail.
Whitelisting helps to maintain your legitimate email communication and can be used in conjunction with greylisting. A whitelist is a list of accepted items or persons in a set. This list is inclusionary, confirming the email is welcome. It is the opposite of a blacklist which confirms that items are not acceptable. An e-mail whitelist is a list of contacts the user says are acceptable to receive email from and should not be sent to the trash folder. Spam filters that come with e-mail clients have both white and black lists of senders and keywords to look for in e-mails. A whitelist means the listed email address, domain, IP address will always be allowed. Internet service providers also have whitelists that they use to filter e-mail to be delivered to their customers. ISPs receive requests from legitimate companies to add them to the ISP whitelist of companies. Remember, to block bulk spam regularly such filters have to be continuously updated.
No, never. Never reply to a remove address either as it is likely to be bogus. Replying to a remove address only confirms your e-mail address as legitimate. The spammer may then pass on your address to other spammers.
Yes. If you are bothered about spam then it may be a good idea to complain to the relevant department of the originating ISP of the spam. They may ask for the full headers of the spam in order for their abuse department to act upon it. Refer to your mail provider's relevant advice if you need help with obtaining the relevant details of the spam. Some ISPs use abuse@........ for their spam complaint departments but it should be easy to find the relevant postmaster email address for the ISP if in doubt.
Mass spamming is viable because advertisers have little operating costs, are difficult to trace and also because much of the current legislation available does little to prevent them. Spammers often obtain e-mail addresses by a number of means - grabbing addresses from Internet postings and web pages, guessing common names at known ISPs and using electronic software known as web spiders or spybots to find email addresses on the web. Another common strategy is to conceal the origin of the spam message by disguising the message to make it look like it came from another source. Many spammers intentionally misspell common spam filter trigger words such as Viagra instead of Viagra to try and bypass spam filters. Pump and dump spam often uses embedded images, instead of text and HTML, making them harder to spot by your filtering systems.
These are a major producer of e-mail spam. Big time spammers create e-mail viruses that hack into unprotected PCs and turn them into zombie computers, called thus because the owner of the computer is usually unaware of the subterfuge. A central unit will command the zombie to send a low volume of spam. This allows spammers to send high volumes of e-mail without being caught by their ISPs or being tracked down by anti-spammers. Vast networks of home computers are infected with this malware. These networks are known as 'botnets'.
Spam is reaching unprecedented levels. For example, almost two thirds of all email received in Ireland over Xmas 2006 was spam - the highest level ever recorded in Ireland. In many markets it is up to 90 per cent of traffic. The increasing number of botnets and spambots are partly the reason for increasing numbers of spam. As spam filters and the efforts of internet service providers and companies to block spam become more sophisticated so do the efforts of the spam software producers.
You can check whether your machine has been listed on any internet blacklists as a possible source of spam. Various websites offer this service and allow you to type in your details to check. You can also wipe your machine clean and start again from your original system disks and most recent data backup. When you do this you start with a clean bill of health and you can then go back and invest in improved defences and implement some of the strategies outlined in this FAQ. Remember, there are excellent free system protection updates available from Microsoft and other interested parties. Microsoft offers the free Malicious Software Removal Tool. Remember, antivirus software isn't always enough and you may need a firewall and greylisting. Review Centre reviews of currently available software hold further tips on protecting your PC.