No, we’re not talking about America’s favourite tinned meat. The other kind of spam is defined as: unsolicited or irrelevant messages sent over the internet, typically to large numbers of users, for the purposes of advertising, phishing and spreading malware.
Electronic spamming, most widely recognised as email spamming also refers to IM spam, SMS spam, Social Media spam and the list goes on.
Even with the advanced protection and security systems we have nowadays, the number of spammers are increasing. Some countries have laws against sending unsolicited messages but it’s very hard to enforce and monitor with the majority of spammers being almost impossible to trace.
The 2 types of spammers
- Everyday people who think that you’ll enjoy their messages and what they’re trying to sell to you. They use email as it’s a very cost effective form of advertising.
- The other far worse, criminals that are simply out to steal your money and your personal information.
Where does spam come from?
Spammers collect email addresses from publicly accessible sources; they use programs designed to collect addresses on the web and they simply use dictionaries to make automated guesses of common usernames. Some scammers even pay for email lists, so be careful when you give out your email address that they won’t be selling it to any third parties.
Spam and viruses
Spam is increasingly sent from computers with viruses. Virus makers and spammers are now working together to compromise innocent computer user’s systems and turning them into spam sending ‘drones’ or ‘zombies’. You will probably know someone or have been yourself, hacked; and not even realised it until you gotten emails from your friends telling you so or you couldn’t even log in to your email program at all. It’s important to make sure you keep your computer’s anti-virus software up to date to avoid becoming a source of spam yourself.
Effects of spam
Apart from the hordes of junk mail in your inbox, spam can also have an indirect effect on both you and your email.
Spammers are very smart, and can even forge false email headers and FROM addresses. This causes confusion for domain administrators, email services and spam victims as they can conceal the actual origin of where their messages are coming from.
Hijacking – Hijacking is when spammers use actual user addresses to try and make their emails look credible.
Phishing – Phishing scams are where scammers try and trick you into giving out your personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers. They often pretend to be a legitimate financial institution like a bank or insurance company. Or my personal favourite: An email from a ‘trusted’ lawyer in Nigeria who tells you your long lost uncle that you never knew has passed away and left you $1 million dollars. All you need to do is send your bank account details and they’ll transfer the funds into your account.
What you can do to help stop and minimise spam emails:
- Don’t open the emails or ever reply. By replying, they see it as 1.) This is an actual email address and 2.) This person opens and reads their emails; so will of course, keep sending you more spam. By opening a spam email you are potentially allowing a virus to infect your computer.
- Mark as ‘junk’ or ‘spam’ then delete. Some spam emails will have the option to ‘unsubscribe’, but almost all will ignore this request and actually send you even more.
- Look at the sender’s address. Spam will typically be sent from a falsified address to conceal the sender’s real identity. If the from address for example is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, this is a fake, made up address.
- Update /create strong passwords and logins. Update all your current passwords, yes, most people are guilty of using the same password for almost all of their accounts, but this makes it so much easier for a scammer or virus to figure out and invade your computer. When creating new passwords, create a strong one with capitals, and a mix of numbers, letters and special characters. Most companies will now prompt you if you’ve entered a weak password. Read our blog article on how to create a strong password.
- Check your email security settings. This may give you the option of adding a mobile number or a secondary email address to use to verify your email address if you ever get locked out. If your emails are hosted on an actual server, the hosting company will be able to adjust the security settings for you to help minimise spam emails from getting through.
We hope this article helped you to better understand what spam is, how to help minimise it and what to do to avoid getting spammed.