The Damage Spam Can Do

Spam might be free to send, but it is very costly to its recipients and the Internet community in the following ways:

  • It costs you money Spam costs millions of dollars a year in Internet resources. It clogs Internet plumbing, forcing ISPs to buy bigger electronic pipes to carry all the information on the Internet. This drives up the cost of operations, which is passed on to you, the ISP's customer.

  • Wasted productivity If you're a business owner, spam wastes workers' time and productivity and increases expenses because it consumes helpdesk and IT resources to deal with it.

  • It wastes your time Spam wastes your time. Wading through spam to find the legitimate email takes time, especially if you get a lot of spam. If it takes you one second to delete a spam email and you get 900 spam emails each day (for a time I was getting more than 1,000) that wastes 15 minutes of your time.

  • It disconnects you If the flow of spam becomes too great, you have to abandon your email address is favor of a new one. This disconnects you from people who lose track of you because they don't update their email address lists.

  • It's annoying and offensive Spam is advertising you're not interested in, and that's just plain annoying. And often it comes with content that's offensive or at the very least distasteful.

  • It endangers children It exposes children to topics and images that they shouldn't have to worry about, including adult content.

  • It's a spyware and virus carrier Some spam carries email attachments that if downloaded can infect your computer with spyware that gathers information on you and distributes it to third parties. (Learn more about spyware in Chapter 2, "Spyware: Overrun by Advertisers, Hijackers, and Opportunists.") Adware that displays advertising to you by installing pop-up ads on your computer can also be distributed this way. Viruses also use mass-mailing strategies to distribute themselves . (Learn more about viruses in Chapter 1, "Viruses: Attack of the Malicious Programs.")

  • It can get you kicked off the Net Some viruses can infect your computer so it turns into a spam-sending machine. And if your computer is identified as a source of spam, you can have your Internet account terminated by your Internet provider. Spammers use viruses to hijack other people's computers into sending spam because they create a massive network of spam-sending machines without worrying about having their own computers being identified as a spam sender. The spam also comes from thousands of computers and not just one, making it harder to stop.


Be sure to run an up-to-date antivirus program on your computer to ensure your computer is not infected with a computer virus that has turned it into a spam distribution machine. Some viruses are engineered to install spam-sending software on a victim's computer.

Reduce the Flow10-Minute Tactics to Reduce Spam

You can do a few simple things to immediately reduce the flow of spam to your email address.

Don't Respond

First of all, never respond to spam. That means don't open spam, don't send angry responses to the spam sender, and definitely don't buy anything in a spam offer. If spam failed to work as an advertising medium, there would be little value in sending it. When you buy or respond to spam, you reinforce the notion that spam works as a marketing tool. And when you respond in any manner, you confirm that your email address is an active address. As a consequence, you'll receive more spam.

Don't Post Your Email Address on the Web

Don't give your main email address to anyone on the Web. That's hard to do because many websites insist on your email address when signing up for their services. It's a good idea to maintain an alternate email address with,,, or any of the other free email services on the web. Check the secondary address occasionally to check for valid email, such as subscription confirmations , and if the volume of spam to that address gets to be too much, simply abandon it and get a new secondary address.

Webmasters Shouldn't Use mailto

If you run a website, don't post your primary email address to it using the HTML code called mailto.

A mailto link allows you to insert a link in a webpage that, when clicked, triggers the web surfer's email program and inserts the email address in the To field. A link that uses this technique looks like this:

 Sent me an email at <a href="mailto:"></a> 

Email harvester programs hunt for this code. Using a mailto is like wearing salmonflavored socks at a cattery. You'll get bombarded with a lot of unwanted attention.

Instead, use the following Javascript code, which achieves the same result but masks the email address. Be sure to customize the parts that say me , , and Link text to your own needs.

[View full width]
[View full width]
<a href="email.html" onmouseover="this.href='mai' + 'lto:' + 'me' + '@' + 'example .com'">Link text</a>

Learn more about this at

Turn Off Image Display in Email Programs

Both Outlook and Outlook Express have a feature that turns off images in HTML email. (HTML is a web programming language that is used to create web pages.) HTML email can include pictures, fancy fonts, and layout like a magazine. If you see a picture displayed in the body of an email, it was mostly likely created with HTML.

The ability to put images in email can cause an increase in spam. That's because spammers put an invisible pixel (an image of a transparent dot) in HTML emails.

When an email is opened or previewed, the invisible pixel is fetched from the spammer's server. That tells the server that the email address affiliated with that image is a good one and is ripe for further spam.

Outlook 2003 and Outlook Express 6 have the ability to block these images from displaying (see Figure 5.7). Here's how to turn the features on in both programs.

Figure 5.7. Outlook Express 6 can block images from displaying in HTML emails when they are opened or in preview mode.

Outlook 2003
Click the Tools menu and choose Options.

Click the Security tab.

Under the Download Pictures heading, click Change Automatic Download Settings button.

Put a tick mark in the box marked Don't Download Pictures or Other Content Automatically in HTML Email.

Outlook Express 6
Click the Tools menu and choose Options.

Click the Security tab.

Under the Download Images heading, put a tick mark in the box marked Block Images and Other External Content in HTML Email (see Figure 5.8).

Figure 5.8. Outlook Express has an image-blocking function to stop the display of embarrassing images and invisible tracking images.

Turn On Junk Mail Filtering

If you use Outlook 98, 2000, or 2003, turn on the Junk filter. It is not a foolproof method, but it stops much of the spam headed for your inbox.

This feature only works in Outlook Express if you have Windows XP and have installed Service Pack 2 (SP2), a major security add-on released by Microsoft in August 2004. You can install it by running Windows Update. Learn more about SP2 on p. 238 .

Outlook 98, 2000, and 2002

To turn on the Junk filter, follow these steps:

In Outlook 98, click the Tools menu, and then click Organize.

Next, click Junk Email.

In the Automatically <action> Junk Messages list, select Move as the action, and then click to select the destination folder from the list. Click Turn On.

In the Automatically <action> Adult messages list, select Move as the action and then click to select the destination folder from the list. Click Turn On.

Outlook 2003

Outlook 2003 offers new junk email tools that improve greatly on previous versions. Here's how to turn the new features on:

Click the Tools menu and choose Options.

On the Preferences tab under Email, click Junk Email.

Select the level of protection you want (see Figure 5.9). If you receive a small volume of spam, choose Low. Note that High protection does a better job, but you will have to check your Junk email folder periodically to ensure that no legitimate emails have been mistakenly marked as spam.

Figure 5.9. Outlook 2003 offers vastly improved anti-spam tools over previous versions of the program, including conservative and aggressive sensitivity settings.

Absolute Beginners Guide To. Security, Spam, Spyware & Viruses
Absolute Beginners Guide to Security, Spam, Spyware & Viruses
ISBN: 0789734591
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 168

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