Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: What can I do to stop spam?

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) September 28, 2007 12:55 PM PDT

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What can I do to stop spam?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 9/28/07 12:55 PM

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I'm not what you would call an experienced user, and this is the first time I've encountered this problem. Is there any way that I can get rid of a whole list (was recently on holiday for a month and there were 350 of these!)of spam from people (all seemingly with real names!), wanting to increase the size of my xxxxxxx, give me my winnings from lotteries, sell me cheap pharmaceuticals, give me a new mortgage--and a whole lot of other stuff. I delete them without opening them and wonder if I shouldn't open them to find an unsubscribe button? Is the only solution to change my e-mail address? I've had this one for a long time, and that might create some interesting glitches. It's only within the past couple of months that these delights have been showing up, and it seems to be increasing at a horrifying rate! How did this all start? What can I do to stop it? Any suggestions? Thank you!

--Submitted by CNET member Jo B.


Answer voted most helpful by our community newsletter readers

Dealing with SPAM...


Jo,

DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, UNDER PAIN OF DEATH, NEVER, EVER, EVER SEND A REPLY TO SPAM!!!!!!! Not even if you think your life depends on it.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I'll tell you why. Spammers sometimes send out an email with a destination that's "close" to your email address. For instance, your email might be job@somewhere.com. The spammer might send one out to jobS@somewhere.com - note the extra S. Many email servers, thinking they're doing you a favor, will automatically forward such emails your way, thinking the sender may have misspelled your email address by mistake. It happens.

So what happens when you open spam and worse yet, send a reply? You're doing something that puts a smile on the spammer's face. You're VALIDATING your email address. Even if that spammer is "honest" enough to not send anything your way, they WILL sell their list to others and now they can actually TARGET you for far more spam than you can shake a stick at.

And if you think that's bad enough, it gets worse. MANY bits of spam have nasty payloads attached to them in the form of viruses and other crapware that can infect and slow down your system. All you have to do is open them and due to vulnerabilities in Windows, IE, Firefox, etc..., you can get infected - even if your AV is up to date.

Third, they may also contain tracking elements - tiny 1 pixel x 1 pixel graphic images that log your opening and downloading of the email. More often than not, they log your IPA address.

Even if the email itself is "harmless", more often than not you won't find any "unsubscribe" links - just a link that WILL more often than not lead to very dangerous web sites that can infect your system with some sort of downloader or other nasty malware.

Changing your email address is not a long term solution either. Ok... You will, no doubt, in the short term, make your inbox seem quite empty. But as you pass out the new email address to the sites you normally visit, and if any of those sites are unscrupulous and desperate enough to SELL their email lists to other people, odds are, you'll be back to square ONE - namely the vast volume of spam in the inbox. This, btw, is more often than not how the whole spam cycle starts. You visit a site, you sign up for a newsletter, and they sell your email address as a part of their list to one of their "affiliates" who in turn may sell it to someone less scrupulous. And that person will sell it to even lower forms of human scum and so forth.

Sadly, there's no easy way to stop spam. As long as even 1 in a million people actually open and out of desperation, stupidity, or by way of some other brain fart, click on the link and god help them spend money on the spammer's sites, the spam will keep on multiplying.

As PT Barnum once wisely spake, "There's a sucker born every minute." Unfortunately, this is still true. If it weren't true, spam wouldn't be an issue. Spammers, like anyone else in business, do it because there's money in it for them.

The bottom line - it's best to delete spam wholesale, sight unseen, punitively, without mercy or giving it a second thought. It's a fact of modern life like getting up in the morning and going to work. And done right, you never have to get past the sender's name and the subject of the email. Just highlight the whole batch, look through it and find and unmark those that are legit and send the rest of the spam where it belongs - oblivion.

http://forums.cnet.com/5208-10149_102-0.html?forumID=7&threadID=265952&messageID=2595024#2595024

--Submitted by CNET member Wolfie2k5

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