Anti-Spam

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I hate spam!

Many people think of spam as any unwanted email. In fact there are two types of email that the average person would consider spam. The first is your typical junk mail, mail from companies you may have used at some point or may still be using. The emails while annoying are perfectly legitimate emails. Spam email go beyond junk mail. They are from unscrupulous users in far away companies, trying to trick you into divulging your bank details, selling you drugs you cant get locally or some other such scam.

You may spend hours each week trawling through junk mail in your inbox, but if you spend the time to look you will be able to avoid most of it. Legitimate companies will include an unsubscribe link somewhere in the email they send you. You may have signed up for the email unsuspectingly when using the companies services at some point. However, legitimate companies will happily remove you from their mailing. If you make the point to unsubscribe from all your Junk you may find you get considerably less spam.

Real spam is much more of a risk to us and harder to get rid of. It would usually contain some form of scam to get you back details. Or they often come in the form of an email trying to get you to pen an attachment that ultimately downloads malware to your computer. A favourite one at the moment is for scamers to take over your computer and lock you out. They then ransom access back to you.

I spent a lot of time trying to avoid spam. I started tracking down the origin of every spam email I got. With a bit of digging you can find out some information about the person sending the email. Such as, the ISP of the originating spam email, the owner of the domain name of the originating email address and the company responsible for registering the domain name. This gives you the ability to contact the companies to inform them their services are being used for spam. Often spam email appears to come from an legitimate company because a spammer is hiding the real sending email address. It doesn't hurt to complain to the company they are impersonating. They will them be aware their business name being used in a scam and they may have the weight to put pressure on ISPs to do something about the spammer. Companies don't like spammers using their services so they take steps to block them once they know it is happening. Unfortunately there is nothing stopping the spammers from using another service.

A big part of avoiding spam is protecting your email address. I went to great lengths to protect my email address. I signed up for a disposable email address service called spamgourmet. Services like this allow you to create an account which lets you make new email addresses simply by sending yourself a new email. A small component of the email address changes with the rest identifying the account. Such as; address.myaccount@spamgourmet.com or newmail.myaccount@spamgourmet.com. This allow you to give 1 email address to individual companies without the need to register each email address individually. For example, if I gave an address to ebay the email would be ebay.myaccount@spamngourmet.com.

Doing this will tell you which companies are giving your email address out. If I started getting non ebay related email to ebay.myaccount@spamgourmet.com I would know that either ebay gave out my email address or they did not keep it secure. Fortunately me ebay address was never used by anyone other than ebay, although I did have a few email addresses that were taken when hackers attacked the companies that had them.

The biggest problem with this system is that you cant give out individual email addresses to personal contacts, all my personal emails all came to the same address. Unfortunately home users are big targets for attacks. I had my personal email, my rowing email and my work email all taken by hackers and start receiving the same spam at the same time.

The sad truth is that however hard we try it is impossible, at present, to protect our email addresses completely from the eyes of spammers. The only way to keep off their radar is to not have an email address, sadly that isn't practical for most people. The next best thing is to change email addresses when it starts getting spam. And I mean real spam here and not just junk mail. Again this is hassle, so most people wont bother. I would recommend this though if anyone gets a particularly large amount of spam. I stopped using a disposable email address service around a year ago because it just became too much hassle managing the email addresses, although I have to say I received less than 10 spam email between 2011-2015.

The best way to combat spammers is, unfortunately to ensure they do not make a profit. That means educating users to avoid their scams and protect their PCs from being hijacked. If they cant make money by exploiting us then they wont bother doing it.