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Email Spam Protection Explained

Email Spam, also known as “Junk Mail”, is nothing but unwanted emails. These are usually sent in bulk to a number of recipients without their permission. Such emails mostly contain identical or near identical content and are often used as a trick to bring the recipient to their website. Some emails market fake products to grab the attention of the reader and redirect the recipient to phishing websites to gain access to the recipient’s personal information. Email spam is illegal in most countries. twc email

Service providers and third-party internet security companies have started making use of spam detectors and filters to fight against the spammer community. But to counter the attack of spam detectors, spammers resort to deceptive techniques to harvest emails and push their products to the end-user. Spammers have continuously adopted newer techniques like using random passages of books in emails to cheat the email text readers and using graphics or images so that text readers are unable to interpret the content.

How do spammers gather information about the recipients?

Spammers usually gather information in one of the three ways mentioned below:

A virus gives it to them

Viruses that you may have received as a gift attached in a friend’s email collects information from your inbox and send the same to the spammer. Or if you may have unknowingly sent someone an email that contains the virus, then your email address gets collected automatically. This information gets transmitted back to the spammer as email list.

You give it to them

This is the most common way in which spammers collect information. When users sign up for a free gift, giveaway, prize, draw, or other offer with their email particulars, they do not realize that the site they have landed on is not a legitimate one. This way, the user not only exposes his or her email address, but also the email addresses of all the people he/she has ever received an email from or sent mails to. The user’s friends also fall prey to the same scam. The spammers’ list keeps building.

Email harvesting

Email harvesting refers to the process in which spammers plant “robots” on every web page and database, to pick up all the email addresses they can find. Your email address can be found in one of these ways:

• Email address you have may have listed on web pages of your own website

• Email distribution lists used by one of your contacts

• Community or Club websites that you visit frequently and sites that you participate on actively

• Group archives like Google Groups

• Corporate or Business staff directories

• DNS and Whois Servers

How to be protected from email spam?

Email scam can be compared with common cold. You never know when you are attacked. Although not much can be done after falling prey, there are some precautionary measures that can be adopted to avoid getting spammed. Email spam protection can happen at multiple levels.

Personal level protection

• If you receive an email from a sender whose name is familiar but is not a person who mails you too often, beware! It is always better to read the subject line before opening the email. Check whether it is something related to your personal life or workplace. If not, the message is certainly spam. Don’t even think about opening emails that try to sell something at highly discounted rates with additional goodies attached. Even if you happen to open the email, do not buy on these websites.

• Invest in good anti-virus, anti-spam software. They prevent accidental clicks from damaging your computer by preventing unauthorized communication over the network.

• Spammers can get notified about opening of an email even without the recipient replying to the email. They embed links in email spam, usually attached to a picture that has a unique name. When the email gets opened the email program tries to load the picture from their server, telling them that the file was accessed. And this way, your email address is traced

• It is always better to have different email addresses for different needs with one of those addresses being sacrificial. The email address that you sacrifice is the one you give to acquaintances, enter in prizes and draws, and make public in online communities. You can use other addresses to keep in touch with family, friends and for work, isolating it from the world of spam. However, this would not be a successful technique if people close to you are not aware about it. Make sure you inform them about your private email id as well as the public one and which they should use to contact you.

• If you own a website then ensure it is protected from email harvesting.

Corporate level protection

• At a corporate level, employees must be educated about spammy activities. They should be told to be careful while filling any personal information from company computers on risky websites. This could be dangerous. Corporates must have strict guidelines towards the usage of company computers on external sites and educate employees about the importance of cyber-security. Employees must be instructed to keep their firewalls, virus scanners and removers updated. They should be told not promote any email spam within the company network. Companies should employ firewalls, malware removal utilities and spam filters on their network so that email spam and viruses are removed at the mail server itself.