You’ve Got Mail…. And It’s Spam!

by News Editor on August 31st, 2012 in Security Tips.

Spam can be frustrating. Unfortunately there are many ways spammers can find out about your email address and then send spam to you. There is very little we can do to avoid ending up on a list of targets for spammers. The reality is that this is one of the main problems of today’s internet.

When that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie came out, it really made us think that getting emails are always fun and entertaining. Well think again… Fast forward today, some of us would flinch whenever we see new email messages appearing on our inbox. Why? Thanks to spam mails we see every day.

What it takes to get someone on a mailing list used by spammers is an email address. There is no need to sign up for anything or ask for emails. A spammer gathers their list of addresses is to scan websites. They have built automated tools, which scan through web pages with the sole purpose of gathering e-mail addresses. The e-mails they gather then get added to a database, which may then be sold on to other spammers.

Most of us are familiar with typical spam mails from Nigerian princes offering lots of free money in exchange for helping someone with a name like Barrister Richard Okoya or from some overseas trust funds informing you about your inheritance from a "long lost family". And those are just some of the popular examples of spam mails that have been circulating around virtual world. Well, not to worry as you won’t be getting as much spam emails anymore, at least for now. This is because a computer security company based in California says that they've eliminated a piece of malware responsible 17 per cent of the world's spam, Grum botnet.

It seems like the elimination of Grum really took effect. Securelist has reported that in Q2 of 2012, the share of spam in mail traffic was down 2.3 percentage points compared to the previous quarter, averaging 74.3%. Asia and Latin America remain the most prominent sources of spam with 53% and 14% respectively.

OnGuardOnline.gov (a US federal government’s website portal), have a few useful guidelines to help you reduce the amount of spam you received:

  • Use an email filter.

Check your email account to see if it provides a tool to filter out potential spam or to channel spam into a bulk email folder. You might want to consider these options when you're choosing which Internet Service Provider (ISP) or email service to use. 

  • Limit your exposure.

You might decide to use two email addresses — one for personal messages and one for shopping, newsletters, chat rooms, coupons and other services. You also might consider using a disposable email address service that forwards messages to your permanent account. If one of the disposable addresses begins to receive spam, you can shut it off without affecting your permanent address.
Also, try not to display your email address in public. That includes on blog posts, in chat rooms, on social networking sites, or in online membership directories. Spammers use the web to harvest email addresses.

  • Check privacy policies and uncheck boxes.

Check the privacy policy before you submit your email address to a website. See if it allows the company to sell your email to others. You might decide not to submit your email address to websites that won't protect it. When submitting your email address to a website, look for pre-checked boxes that sign you up for email updates from the company and its partners. Some websites allow you to opt out of receiving these mass emails.

  • Choose a unique email address.

Your choice of email addresses may affect the amount of spam you receive. Spammers send out millions of messages to probable name combinations at large ISPs and email services, hoping to find a valid address. Thus, a common name such as ‘jdoe’ may get more spam than a more unique name like j26d0e34. Of course, there is a downside - it's harder to remember an unusual email address.