The Entertainment Shack


Spam: How to Stop It

Posted by Erik W on Jan 5, 2004 7:56 PM

Spammers make thousands of dollars daily off of junk email, and the biggest thing we can do to stop it is to ignore it. But there are no signs of it slowing down, here are some ways to prevent it:

Wired News had an interesting article on how people actually do buy products from junk email.
Added 3/23/05: And The BBC reports that nearly 1/3 of users have clicked on spam messages and 1/10 have bought products advertised in them.

The best way to stop spam is to not buy anything... no high school diplomas, no viagra, nothing. However unless the whole world stops buying things, spam isn't going to stop.

A better question perhaps might be how to prevent spam from getting to that fresh new email account you created in the first place.

According to the Center for Democracy and Technology, the highest amount (actually 97%) of spam comes from webpages. But it isn't because website owners sell your email, it's because your email address is probably listed on a website somewhere. Did you sign up for a messgeboard? Usually your email address is listed next to your post. What happens is what is commonly known as "bots" or "spiders" automatically go through millions of websites and collect the emails displayed in them. The more popular the website the more likely it is to fall victim to a bot harvesting emails.

So how do you stop it? When you sign up for a website, request that you aren't put in the member listing, most websites have that option. If you have your own website, replace emails with human readable form, like "erik at example dot com" or replace key symbols with html numeric equivalents, like replace "@" with @ and "." with . At this point in time, almost 100% of bots aren't programmed to look for those obscurities. It's not too late either, the study by CDT found that removing an email address from a webpage significantly reduces the amount of spam coming to that account. Spammers like to keep their lists fresh, so they come to spider the sites often, adding and removing address from their databases as they go.

Usenet is the second highest source for spam. Most of the spam is sent to the emails in the headers of the email, and not to emails referenced inside the body of the message.

A common thing to do on usenet to stop spam is add the "nospam-" prefix to your email address. Most people when replying to your email will know to simply remove the prefix from your email address.

The third biggest source of spam is websites that actually do sell your email address. Although a large percentage of websites were found to honor the user's request to opt-out, casino and adult websites were found to continue to send spam. For companies you don't know much about, it is best to use a one-time-use throw away email address, like Spam Gourmet.

Did you follow all the above but are still getting spam? It is possible that you're a victim of a dictionary attack, in which a spammer selects a domain, and emails are sent to emails based on dictionary words, and common names. "erik@example.org" is more likely to fall victim to a dictionary attack then "e8r1i8k74@example.org".

For more information, download the study by the Center for Democracy and Technology here.

listed in: junk email, tutorial


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