Getting “E-Mauled” by E-Mail

in Security, Tech Tips by

Back when e-mail was in its infancy, users used to have to pay around $20 a month for an account. I remember when having an email account was viewed as a status symbol, even if none of your friends had one and therefore did not communicate with you that way.

Fast forward 15 years and almost EVERYONE has an email account. The only holdouts are usually the elderly, infants or separatists living in one-room cabins in Wyoming. Most people even have multiple email accounts since they are available for free these days. But, of course the Spammers know that fact also and one of the biggest complaints, if not THE biggest, these days is the amount of SPAM that the average user receives daily (the FTC even has a lengthly form you can fill out to file a formal complaint). Some estimates say that as much as 90-percent of all email is SPAM, although I think that figure could be really inflated. Add to the sheer volume of spam the ever-more-sophisticated phishing attacks unleashed on unsuspecting users and it is obvious that the email method of communication is under serious attack.

One can no longer just rely on Blacklisting or blocking certain email addresses. E-mail address spoofing has rendered that technique all but useless. Blocking emails containing certain “words” is another technique that is so ’90s. Spammers are just rewriting these words so that filters c@n’t bl()ck them.

The bad guys go to these lengths because SPAM is far too lucrative a business for it to just go away. The average spammer sends 100 million messages at one time. Let’s say that only 1% get past the spam filters. That is 1 million messages that are actually delivered. Now take it a step further and let’s say that 1% of those messages are actually answered – that is 10,000 SPAM emails that are actually answered in some way by the recipient. There is not another advertising method available that provides that kind of success rate and all the spammer has to do is create an email and push the “send” button.

Make no mistake, spammers are in the lead in this race. They are hiring professional software developers to create more and more effective programs. They are also using botnets to avoid detection by ISPs and to send the emails from multiple nodes, making it harder and harder for security vendors to stop or even slow the flow.

So the next time you see spam in your inbox, try to remember what the web hosting company is up against. It requires constant effort and even that sometimes is not enough. You, however, can make things a little easier by protecting your email addresses. For example, if a website requires you to enter a valid email address in order to sign up for something, try using a temporary email address service. One that we have mentioned before is Guerrilla Mail. A service like that will keep your personal email address from ending up in some spammer’s database.

Also, if you receive an unsolicited email from someone you don’t know, don’t click the little link that sometimes appears at the bottom of the email saying “Click here to be removed from our mailing list.” Usually, clicking that link will just notify the spammer that he/she has actually discovered a valid email address.

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