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Fighting Spam

The Top 5 Rules that you should employ 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 messages."

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 you:
a) use form emails, which can hide addresses or also
b) use addresses like sales@company.com 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 address.

Step 2: Get spam blocking software

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 well.

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.

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