As far as opinions go, this is a big one for me. Computers are tools, and if used properly, they have unlimited potential! Their is nothing that you cannot accomplish with a little thought and some persistence as far as programming is concerned. Now comes spam.
Spam probably began at the same time the e-mail, or “Simple Text Messages” started being sent via wire! Spam, has its simple definition for me: “Any message sent to me that I did not ask for, don’t care about and/or does not even
apply to me.” Whether it be a “joke” forwarded around the planet, corporate E-Mail speaking of a persons death or retirement that I have never heard of nor knew existed, or those annoying advertisements over and over again! What are we up to? 8 million E-Mail addresses? 15 Million? For $blah money?!? Ugh?
Those same wonderful programmers that has created tools to message people at the speed of light, also created the opportunity for other to send me information at a VERY limited cost to them. How many times has your neighbor dropped a joke or cartoon that was cut out of the newspaper into an envelope, put a stamp on it, and sent it to you, thinking that this is something that you have waited all your life for?!? Yup, just what I though, never. That same person will not even think twice about clicking the “forward to all” button on that E-Mail client to make sure that everyone they have ever contacted in their computer using career has that very same type of information!
Gas buying boycott for a day, forward to all for a good cause, massive amounts of porn advertisements, get rich quick schemes, “great” stock tips and many others! These are all the kind of messages that I receive on a daily basis in my spam E-Mail account inbox (more on that later). A note on the pr0n: I have NEVER put my address on ANY adult site, ever! Parents beware. Your children may be getting more than they ask for in their E-Mail boxes if they have a “free” E-Mail account.
If you think that you just created a “fresh” E-Mail account with Hotmail and will start with nothing in your inbox. Guess again. I created a new address and within 24 hours I had 3 E-Mails. 72 hours, over 18. That same “Fresh” E-Mail account has about 10 or so per day, every day. I had NEVER used this account with ANYTHING! Pron, weight loss, you name it, it is there, and usually from “forged” E-Mail address accounts.
Most ISP’s and providers have a “abuse” procedure if a particular customer is using their service to “illegally” send spam to others. This is all fine and dandy, but you do not HAVE to use ANY provider, to avoid fueling the fire, I am
not going to get into great detail about the exact way to do it. But there is PLENTY of free ISP’s and free SMTP servers that you may bounce or relay messages through, “forging” the header information (to not be able to trace it back to the person that sent it) and get your message out to the planet. I have sent numerous “abuse” information to MSN, Hotmail, AOL, etc because the address that the E-Mail claimed it was “from” was something like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In every case, I was sent information back that it was a “forged” header and the account does NOT even exist.
Do you think that someone sits at a computer and types in each address and sends them off? Not quite. How can I get messages in a “new” E-Mail account (Hotmail, Yahoo). Well, since those providers are known world wide, they are easy to target. Robots can (and have been) created to do the previously unthinkable: E-Mail every possible address. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc. Sounds like a lot? Not really. Have you received a “large” spam message? Usually they are VERY short: “Click here for … action” or “lose weight now for free” etc. Being as though they are so small, it takes little bandwidth to send this information out! Take for example. An E-Mail that is a little less than 500 bytes (which is large for spam) can be sent 2 or 3 times per second with a analog modem!
Say you can send:
100 per minute
6,000 per hour
144,000 per day
4,320,000 per month
Not bad for free to $20 for a “traditional” ISP. Just in stamps alone, that would be almost 1.5 million dollars a month! Not including the cost of envelopes, paper, time used stuffing, etc! Sure, this example may be a little off base, technically speaking, due to the many factors involved, but think of cable or DSL accounts and then think again. Also, not to awful many “direct mail” marketers are sending mail to EVERY possible mailing address that it may be in every home town, but with the wonders of computers, the possibility is there and easy.
How can I fight back? It’s a losing battle, but you can do some things to help cut back on the crap in your inbox every day.
- Get a “free” E-Mail account and use it exclusively for “registering” and “logging in” to forums and general contact information on the web. Never use your “ISP” E-Mail account. You can change your spam address, it is sometimes a hassle to change your ISP’s addresses. Hotmail, Yahoo and many others offer free E-Mail accounts. Get one as a “spam” address. Your “ISP” E-Mail account should NOT be used for signing up with ANYTHING
on the Internet! Along those same lines, my domain E-Mails are used for “private” messaging and anyone that ends up there to communicate with me. The ISP and Domain E-Mails are usually checked every five minutes while I am online. The spam addresses are checked twice a day (just to keep them to a manageable level).
- Set up your filters. Hotmail, how ever ineffective a lot of it is, can set up “bulk” E-Mail filters for you. You can block information sent to you from someone other than who is in your address book, key words (weight, debt, xxx, over 18+, just to name a few) or specific E-Mail addresses.
- Watch your children’s E-Mail. I am sure that you would not like your 10 year old printing out a XXX E-Mail and giving it to you. (Daddy, whuts this?!?)
- For your POP3 accounts (usually your normal ISP E-Mails), in Outlook Express and many others, you can set up filters, auto responders and more! Use these to your advantage. Even though Hotmail may limit your filters to as many as 12 or so, you can have an unlimited number of “rules” created to minimize the junk in your mailbox.
- NEVER EVER NEVER click or reply with a “remove” request!!! The only thing you are doing is confirming the fact that YOU EXIST and your E-Mail address is VALID! Law states that they will not send you information that you do not request, so they just sell your information to someone else!!! And verified E-Mail addresses are more valuable than unverified ones! Usually, the law only applies to LEGIT companies that really only mean to provide you with information that YOU want and ask for, which leads to the next one.
- Never “OPT IN!” That is to say, do not select the “allow third parties to contact me with information that we feel is valuable” check box. Only thing THAT does is give them a right to give, share or SELL your information legally to ANYONE! Bad idea. The next company that has your E-Mail address may not be so respectful!
Give these options a look. You may be surprised in what you can do with a little bit of work to save you time later.
Some other quick tips you should already be doing are:
- Don’t open E-Mail attachments. Period.
- Don’t have your “preview pane” active. Scripts can run in “HTML” E-Mail messages and such. Check your E-Mail client documentation or help files for information on how to disable this “feature” of automatically opening
- Please refrain from using the forward to all button. Trust me when I say that not EVERYONE in your address book really cares about the information you get in your inbox.
September 3, 2001
September 3, 2001: Initial release.