Spam, spam everywhere -- How can we control it?

May 26, 2005

According to Phillip Laplante, associate professor of software engineering at Penn State Great Valley, the answer as to why spam is omnipresent is two-fold: it's easy to create and distribute, and it's economically advantageous for those who send it.

Spammers get e-mail addresses from a variety of sources, Laplante says. "Robot" harvesters traverse the Web and collect e-mail addresses posted on Web sites. Spammers share email lists with each other and obtain legitimate lists under false pretenses. They can randomly generate e-mail addresses too -- all they need to know is the domain name (e.g. "anywhere.com") and they can create random combinations of user IDs until they hit real users.

"Anytime you give your e-mail address in exchange for free information posted to the Web it becomes fair game for the spammers," says Laplante. "Finally, even when you give your e-mail address to a legitimate correspondent or business partner, it might inadvertently end up in the hands of a spammer."

Even though spammers know that most recipients delete the e-mail without reading it, and that spam filters and bad addresses keep many of their e-mails from reaching their intended targets, spamming can still be very profitable. Sending spam isn't free -- there are costs involved in obtaining the addresses, preparing the lists, sending the e-mails, supporting the spam site, etc. -- but the cost of doing so is quite low, probably around 1/100 of a cent per e-mail sent. If only one e-mail in 100,000 yields a successful business transaction, depending on the product, the profit can be significant.

So, how do you stop getting so much spam? Well, there is no way to prevent spam completely, says Laplante. This is an "arms race" and the spammers develop counter-measures for every new technique developed to stop them. But you can reduce spam by taking a number of precautions.

First, use and aggressively maintain whatever spam-blocking feature your mail client provides. Microsoft Outlook has a pretty good spam filter if you maintain the rules database faithfully. There are commercial spam-blocking products, too, and some freebies, but this is not the place for an analysis of these. Also, stop giving away your e-mail address so freely. If you don't have to give your e-mail address in exchange for "product updates," don't do it.

Be careful how you post your e-mail address to your Web site. If it is posted in text format, a harvester will eventually grab it. You can embed your e-mail address in an image -- this makes it nearly impossible for a harvester to find it.

Finally don't ever buy a product introduced to you via spam. If the economics didn't work out for the spammer, they would stop doing it. Unfortunately, there are always suckers out there who can't resist a "bargain."

Source: Penn State

Explore further: Ericsson profit down 10 pct despite higher sales

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

iWorm hack shows Macs are vulnerable too

Oct 08, 2014

The computer operating systems and applications we use today have often evolved over many years, decades even, and contain tens or hundreds of millions of lines of code. Flaws in that code – and there will ...

Attackers use Network Time Protocol for denial exploit

Feb 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —Reports are calling it the world's most massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack ever, referring to this week's report about a massive exploit making use of the Network Time Protocol ...

Recommended for you

Ericsson profit down 10 pct despite higher sales

56 minutes ago

Wireless equipment maker Ericsson says its third-quarter earnings slumped 10 percent despite higher sales due to increased operating costs and negative effects from currency hedging.

UK wind power share shows record rise

1 hour ago

The United Kingdom wind power production has been enjoying an upward trajectory, and on Tuesday wind power achieved a significant energy production milestone, reported Brooks Hays for UPI. High winds from Hurricane Gonzalo were the force behind wind turbines outproducing nuclear power ...

Glass maker deals to exit Apple, Arizona plant

3 hours ago

Nearly 2,000 furnaces installed in a factory to make synthetic sapphire glass for Apple Inc. will be removed and sold under a deal between the tech giant and the company that had been gearing up to produce huge amounts of ...

Global boom in hydropower expected this decade

5 hours ago

An unprecedented boom in hydropower dam construction is underway, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies. While this is expected to double the global electricity production from hydropower, it could reduce ...

User comments : 0