Don’t Let Spam Get in Your Way: Dealing with The Atrocity

by News Editor on July 30th, 2013 in How to.

There no doubt that spam is a major issue for most internet users. Since the celebrated arrival of email, spammers have found it to be a suitable medium to promote their products and services. Spam has evolved from consisting of harmless advertisements to becoming a carrier of dangerous viruses and other applications that can damage your computer. These junk emails are also known to cause identity theft wherein a user’s personal details are hijacked by the spammers through devious means.

With the widespread of spam there has been the invention of a number of ways to combat the problem. There are anti-spam applications, blocks, filters and a host of other ways you can curb this growing menace. However, in spite of there being many methods for spam control, the problem still persists. Some alarming spam statistics are given here:

  • According to a recent survey, spam totals around 14.5 billion messages every day. This means most of the mails that you receive every day in your inbox are junk mails.
  • Spam makes up almost 80% of emails being sent every day. The most common type of spam mail is advertising emails that make up close to 35% of all spam mails.
  • Adult related mails make up 30% of the spam messages. And finally, financially related mails that up 15% of all junk emails.
  • In the next four to five years, it is predicted that approximately 58 billion spam emails would be sent every day to internet users’ worldwide.

Sophos analyzed the spam volume between April and June of 2013 and identified the top 12 spam relaying countries in its “Dirty Dozen” report. The analysis determined the extent to which computers in a given country are used for delivering spam.

Top 12 spam countries are:

1.    United States (13.8%)
2.    Belarus (11.7%)
3.    China (5.9%)
4.    Ukraine (5.5%)        New!
5.    Taiwan (3.6%)
6.    India (3.6%)
7.    Spain (3.4%)
8.    Kazakhstan (3.3%)         New!
9.    Argentina (3.1%)            New!
10.    Italy (2.9%)
11.    Russia (2.6%)
12.    Germany (2.5%)

Sophos said three new countries entered the top 12 while several other countries -- France, Peru and South Korea -- fell off the list.


How Can I Reduce the Amount of Spam I Get?

1.   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.

2.   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.

3.   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.

4. 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.


How Can I Help Reduce Spam for Everyone? 

Hackers and spammers lurk the internet looking for computers that are not protected by up-to-date security software. When they find unprotected computers, they try to install hidden software – called malware – that allows them to control the computers remotely. Many thousands of these computers linked together make up a “botnet“ a network used by spammers to send millions of emails at once. Millions of home computers are part of botnets. In fact, most spam is sent this way.

1.   Don’t let spammers use your computer.

You can help reduce the chances that your computer will become part of a botnet:

  • Use good computer security practices and disconnect from the internet when you're away from your computer. Hackers can’t get to your computer when it’s not connected to the internet.
  • Be cautious about opening any attachments or downloading files from emails you receive. Don't open an email attachment — even if it looks like it's from a friend or coworker — unless you are expecting it or you know what it is. If you send an email with an attached file, include a message explaining what it is.
  • Download free software only from sites you know and trust. It can be appealing to download free software – like games, file-sharing programs, and customized toolbars. But remember that free software programs may contain malware.

2.   Detect and get rid of malware.

It can be difficult to tell if a spammer has installed malware on your computer, but there are some warning signs:

  • Your friends may tell you about weird email messages they’ve received from you.
  • Your computer may operate more slowly or sluggishly.
  • You may find email messages in your sent folder that you didn't send.

If your computer has been hacked or infected by a virus, disconnect from the internet right away. Then take steps to remove malware.

3.   Report Spam

Forward unwanted or deceptive messages to:

  • the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov. Be sure to include the complete spam email.
  • your email provider. At the top of the message, state that you're complaining about being spammed. Some email services have buttons that allow you to mark messages as junk mail or report them spam.
  • the sender's email provider, if you can tell who it is. Most web mail providers and ISPs want to cut off spammers who abuse their system. Again, make sure to include the entire spam email and say that you're complaining about spam.

If you try to unsubscribe from an email list and your request is not honored, file a complaint with the FTC.