- Internet & the Web
Junk Emails And Spam Solutions
What is Spam?
In years gone by, the two major areas of annoyance for the common man was the door-to-door salesman and junk mail. Both were unsolicited, neither were really welcomed and it was impossible to guard against either.
Despite signs outside houses which typically read "No Hawkers, No Circulars", still rubbish came through the letter box and as recently as last week, I had to tell a representative of Talk Talk Telephone Systems not to come back again, which meant being a lot more assertive than I expected and actually threatening legal proceedings if they ever knocked on my door again.
However, being there face to face with someone is much easier than connecting to the internet and not knowing what's going to end up in your in box.
Spam is a problem, but is it any more of a problem than those horrible double glazing leaflets, broadband internet leaflets or the plethora of begging letters from various charities?
Okay, charities I can understand and since we already support three or four on a monthly basis, I feel that we can file the rest of the junk that comes through straight into the filing tray marked 'rubbish bin'.
Spam however is a whole different ball game.
First of all, what is SPAM and why do we need spam filtering?
According to Wikipedia, Spam is defined this way:
Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social networking spam, television advertising and file sharing network spam.
See, it's everywhere. In fact anything that allows remote access is a completely legitimate target in the eyes of the less scrupulous person or people that employ these techniques of blanket mailing.
Sometimes I have to wonder where these people get the email addresses in the first place, but then, lists of addresses for people's emails are widely available and the older they are the less expensive they are to buy. Admittedly, there will be some that are no longer current, but the majority I would imagine would still work.
Weighing up the amount of worth blanket and other indiscriminate forms of emailing may be to these people, that investment may well be a drop in the ocean comparatively speaking.
So the long and the short of it is that Spam is that annoying, unsolicited mail you get that seems impossible to stop even though you may well be employing some form of spam filtering system either utilising what comes with your email client (Outlook Express etc) or using a third party filter.
You need Spam filtering because otherwise it seems the volumes of this rubbish would require full-time work just wading through it.
Anti Spam filtering appliance, email anti-spam blocker
Anti spam filtering appliance software and email anti spam blocker products are designed to filter out the rubbish from the mail the user needs or wants to get.
Products that are available are very good at their jobs, especially for people with high email traffic, but for those of us who don't have these applications, it looks like we have to rely on Outlook Express, Outlook or similar applications to deal with our junk mail.
Mostly, the ISP will have something in place to at least cut down the number of spam messages we get in our in boxes.
The Spam filtering appliances and email anti spam blockers throw a very clever bunch of rules and heuristics at the incoming mail and look for particular patterns in the words used. However, that's not always so easy, as for us humans, we can rapidly see past mistakes to the underlying message, which means the spammers:
ca n sta rt leaving sp c s in wo rds
...and using bad grammar or spelling to get the messages through.
What the above does, is confuses the algorithms used to search for text patterns, keywords etc so in the bolded message, if 'leaving spaces ' were a keyword, the application would possibly miss that because of the space, but we can see it and see past it.
The number of rules we would have to write in something like 'Outlook' to encapsulate all the possible variations would be colossal, but we can block the senders. Sadly, that doesn't prevent the messages from being downloaded, it just forwards them to a 'junk' folder or deletes them.
This is a particularly nasty form of mailing.
I have received a number of messages purporting to be from reputable companies looking for staff and in some cases, they have even quoted a job-based website I may have posted my CV on. They claim I would be earning a small fortune for doing a minimal amount of work on a daily basis and all I have to do is reply with my information to a given email address.
Sounded suspiciously like getting something for nothing to me. Too good to be true.
What gives the game away is their use of Yahoo or GMail accounts. These are readily set up and can be completely anonymous. However, if they were the big multi-national they claimed to be, that kind of an email address is unlikely and smaller firms would be unlikely to offer the big bucks.
For these, it's down to your sensibility to know that a) you don't get paid over £1,000 per month for two hours a day and b) these companies usually have a company name-type address for their emails.
They are targeting the unwary and the desperate and it's my contention that all they are after is the information either to send more unsolicited mail to or to steal your identity.
Another form of these is where they use the apparent identity of a bank or building society, complete with the logos, mimicking the way these people would send emails except they are after your passwords, card numbers or account numbers.
They do not know whether you have an account with these institutions, they are just mailing this same email to a number of undisclosed recipients in the hopes of getting the numbers necessary to empty their bank accounts or credit cards.
Spam blockers and Anti spam service
These are things that most reputable ISP (Internet Service Providers) will provide as part of the service. They are able to invest the money in applications or appliances that they can afford to put in place because they can spread the cost between the users, which we users would have to foot in its entirety were that not the case.
Some even allow you to be able to configure the system to block spam before it gets to your in box, making certain that you don't download it and waste time and money, especially if you're on dial-up systems.
I don't believe you can stop them as like viruses, the people who design the programs that write a lot of the spam are extremely clever - at least as clever as the people who are fighting to combat it, if not more so as they always seem to be one step ahead.
So don't despair, they ARE annoying and unwelcome, but at the same time, like the leaflets that come through the letter box, you just need to throw them away or set your email client to delete any more that may come from that address.