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Online Threats - Spam


What is spam?

Spam is the electronic version of "junk mail," unsolicited e-mail that advertises a service or product.

Where does spam come from?

Most spammers use spam to advertise, some use it to distribute viruses, trojans and worms while others simply use it to annoy. Email accounts are traditionally targeted most but recently spammers have become more innovative. Spam can now be found on blogs; instant messaging; social networking sites, such as MySpace and FaceBook; and even mobile phones.

How does spam affect my computer?

While spam may not necessarily contain viruses or malware, it is a nuisance and results in loss of productivity when you are forced to sift through unwanted messages every day. For large organizations it can mean loaded email servers that threaten the health and operation of their IT systems. In extreme cases, spammers have secretly commandeered computers with malware to act as an email server, which is then used to forward spam messages to other email recipients.

How do I protect myself from spam?

Spam is a common, and frustrating, side effect to having an email account. Although you will probably not be able to eliminate it, there are ways to reduce it. One way is through filtering spam using approved sender lists. For example, you can set Hotmail to deliver only messages from your contacts while the rest is sent to the junk folder. Other e-mail programs let you do the same thing through a filter rule. Remember to scan your junk folder occasionally.

Help reduce irritating spam:

  • Look for a company's privacy policy before submitting an email address. Every reputable company will have a link to their privacy policy explaining what they intend to do with your information.
  • When you sign up for online accounts or services, make sure you deselect optional choices selected by default.
  • If you follow links or reply to spam messages, you are confirming that your email address is valid and will get even more junk mail, so avoid the temptation to click.
  • Sign up for a challenge/response spam service.
  • Open a second email address specifically for online shopping, chat rooms, signing up for services, etc. to protect your primary address from accumulating spam.
  • Look at the WOT scorecard before clicking to an unknown site. The ratings and user comments can help protect you from a bad experience.

See also Adware, Browser exploits, Internet fraud, Malware, Phishing and Spyware