What is spam?
The term “spam” refers to unsolicited commercial e-mail or unsolicited bulk e-mail, i.e. e-mail that you did not request. Most often spam contains advertisements for dubious services or products.
Why am I getting spam?
Is your e-mail address on any Web pages? Do you post to public newsgroups? Did you fill out online forms on dubious sites? Or did you correspond with companies you know nothing about via e-mail? If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes”, you are the likely receiver of SPAM.
Common types of spam
The most commonly seen spam includes the following:
• Chain letters
• Pyramid schemes
• Multilevel marketing
• “Make Money Fast” schemes
• Foreign bank scams
• Offers of phone sex lines and ads for pornographic web sites
• Illegally pirated software
According to a poll conducted and released by Harris Interactive, 80percent of users say they find spam very annoying, a huge increase from the 49percent who felt that way two and a half years ago. Strong support for a legal spam ban crosses gender, color, ethnic and political party lines.
How spammers operate?
Unlike junk paper mail, e-mail spam costs the sender very little to send; almost all of the costs are paid by the recipient and the carriers, because the spammer does not have to pay for the entire Internet bandwidth tied up in the delivery of the spam. Because they have no incentive to be efficient in their mass e-mailing, spammers usually don’t put much effort into verifying e-mail addresses. They use automatic programs called bots to scour the Web and Usenet newsgroups, collecting addresses, or buy them in bulk from other companies.
One of most common tricks used by spammers is to relay messages through the e-mail server of an innocent third party. This tactic doubles the damages: both the receiving system and the innocent relay system are flooded with spam. And for any mail that gets through, often the flood of complaints goes back to the innocent site because it was made to look like the origin of the spam. Many spammers send their spam from a free account from a large ISP such as AOL, Yahoo!, or Hotmail, then abandon the account and open a new one to use for the next assault. Another common trick that spammers use is to forge the headers of messages, making it appear as though the message originated elsewhere. This is called spoofed e-mail. There are some pieces of information in the full headers that the spammer cannot forge, but even after technical investigation into the source of the message, most often the resulting information leads to a dead end.
Why is spam so bad, after all?
• It’s almost free for the spammer to send it. Spam is unique in that the receiver pays so much more for it than the sender does. For example, AOL has said that they were receiving 1.8 million spam mails from Cyber Promotions per day until they got a court injunction to stop it. Assuming that it takes the typical AOL user only 10 seconds to identify and discard a message, that’s still 5,000 hours per day of connect time per day spent discarding their spam, just on AOL. No other kind of advertising costs the advertiser so little and the recipient so much.
• Generates problems. Many spam messages say “please send a REMOVE message to get off our list.” At the moment, most of us only get a few spam mails per day. But if only one thousandth of the Internet users decided to send out spam at a moderate rate of 100,000 per day (easily achievable with a dial-up account and a PC): everyone would receive100 spam mails every day. If spam grows, it will crowd our mailboxes to the point that they’re not useful for real mail.
• Consuming resources. An increasing number of spammers send most or all of their mail via innocent intermediate systems, to avoid blocks that many systems have placed against mail coming directly from the spammers’ systems. Many other spammers use “hit and run” spamming: they get a trial dial-up account at an Internet provider for a few days, send thousands of messages, and then abandon the account. The unsuspecting provider has to waste staff time for cleanup and monitoring their trial accounts for abuse.
• Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. The spam messages have almost without exception advertised stuff that’s worthless, deceptive, and partly or entirely fraudulent: spam software, funky miracle cures, off-brand computer parts, vaguely described get rich quick schemes, dial-a-porn, and so on.
• You can get yourself into trouble. Some kinds of spam are illegal in some countries on the Internet. Especially with pornography, mere possession of such material can be enough to put the recipient in jail.
What to do?
Spam has increasingly become a problem on the Internet. Unfortunately, most countries around the world currently have no adequate laws or regulations to control it. It is a very frustrating situation for users as well as for technical support personnel. It is a basic fact of Internet life that if you use the Internet, you will get unsolicited e-mail.
Tips to reduce SPAM
• Avoid posting your e-mail address online.
• Don’t list your e-mail address directly on a Web page
• Don’t use e-mail addresses that are easy to guess.
• Never respond to spam.
• Block unwanted e-mails from a specific spammer using filters inside your e-mail program.
• Pay attention when filling out online forms and disable the checkbox (usually enabled by default).
• Use spam blacklists available on the internet.
• Sue the spammers: AOL has won almost $7 Million in a spam case.
• Switch to an internet provider offering spam filtering.
Did you know that…
• In the workplace, research company Gartner estimates that roughly 25 percent to 35 percent of a company’s total mail volume consists of spam.
• Spam is costing $8.9billion to U.S. corporations, $2.5 billion for European businesses and another $500 million for U.S. and European service providers, according to a study by Ferris Research. Figuring it takes 4.4 seconds on average to deal with a message, the messages add up to $4 billion in lost productivity for U.S. businesses each year. Another $3.7 billion comes from companies having to buy more powerful servers and more bandwidth as well as divert staff time. There is attributable to companies providing help-desk support to annoyed users.