What is Spam?

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Spam is any unwanted communication that are often sent in bulk and usually automated so that the sender can get their message to as many individuals possible.

Email Spam: is typically generated from a master list and/or are spread automatically in the hopes of sending emails to certain likely address that they will get a response. For example you can guess that most domain names have an admin@, sales@, enquires@ address so sending the same email to all three is likely to get at least 1 through to a human being.

Forum/comment Spam: are misleading or gibberish emails looking to bypass controls and place malicious advertising or code on your site and feed off your sites users.

What is the purpose of Spam?

Spam relies on quantity and the hope that a minority of the recipients will take some action to the spammers benefit.

What do they hope to achieve?

This is the crux of the issue a spam mail/post might typically have one or more of these in mind.

  1. 1 to verify that your email address is valid (opening links, replying or unsubscribing)
  2. to directly infect with a virus or malware (infected file attached to email)
  3. to get you to click on a link to infect you (a clicked link leads to an infected page)
  4. to Phish, misleading you into revealing valuable data (a bank or service requests you confirm your password)
  5. to receive advertising money, calculated on a per click basis, by presenting you with misleading link or image

Outside of email automated spamming can bombard a server in the hope of slowing or stopping its service to legitimate clients. Posting to unprotected forums or commenting on news with links that lead to other sites.

How do I combat Spam?

  • Forums, blogs and comments: all are easily protected by enabling captcha encoding. Captcha adds a small image to the input boxes and requires a human to read the image and enter in an appropriate code. This helps ensure a human is making the post.

  • Moderate comments: If you vet comments before they are live you avoid all kinds of non-spam related issues as well but means communication is slowed until you approve posted comments.

  • Emails: These are the hardest to deal with as once you are targeted you are at the mercy of the sender to stop. If you or a contact have had their email compromised with a virus that takes the contact book and spams it (typically sending millions of emails as fast as possible in the hopes of getting them out before it’s detected and stopped) by sending emails that come from someone they know and probably trust. This kind of attack is often easy to spot if you are responsible when you get lots of mailer daemon bounce back emails when the virus emails non-existent addresses repeatedly. Note that if you don’t deal with this quickly your email service provider will likely shut off your service to protect their own good name and eventually you’ll be blacklisted as a source of spamming that might lead to undelivered emails.

  • You should keep your computers antivirus and operating system up to date at all times and run regular virus checks.

Other measures

For general email spam your email client can be set to filter out spam into a junk folder and similarly your email provider will often offer spam filters too. The provider spam check will typically add the word SPAM: to the start of an email subject line but still sent the email to your client. This is so you get the chance to review the email on the off chance that it’s not spam. Don’t forget to check your spam folders to catch any non-spam that slips through.

For forum & comment spam it’s often possible to add resubmit timers that stop commenting for a single user to once every so many seconds, to make certain changes to the mandatory elements of the form and human interaction only submit buttons.

Don’t publish your email on your website. This one seems counter intuitive as without your email how will customers be able to contact you.. contact forms protect you from automated bots that scan for email addresses on websites and add them to their spam lists. Contact forms also allow you to format and tailor communications so you get the information you need sent to the emails you want.

  • Always keep your operating system up to date with manufacturer updates.
  • Always keep your antivirus up to date and run regular scans.

By Alanna at 22 Sep 2014, 15:07 PM