Spam

The Unwanted Daily Visitor

November, 2002

Spam. Not only is it a daily nuisance for e-mail account holders, but it also drains millions of dollars annually from companies and Internet service providers. It is estimated that e-mail users shoulder the cost of spam – an average of $2 each per month – so that their Web providers can increase the network capacity needed to handle the epidemic. That number is expected to increase. Industry leaders have found that since March 2001, the number of spam attacks has skyrocketed more than 500 percent. Users of the popular e-mail service Hotmail together receive 1 billion unsolicited e-mails per day.

There have been several attempts by Washington lawmakers to crack down on spammers, however, nothing yet has been officially declared. In the past few years, states have created their own policies to address the problem – 26 have done so, as of this writing.

It is only time before Hawaii mirrors its U.S. Mainland counterparts. Right now, “many people rely on filters and technological barriers instead of the law,” says Robert Carson Godbey, partner at the law firm Jackson Godbey Griffiths. “I think the ISPs have become more aggressive in trying to prevent services from generating spam. … The problem has become more aggravated as e-mail has grown and markets have learned that there is a profit to be made from spam.”

There are national services that watch the activities of spammers and provide, what they call, “blacklists.” Companies themselves can set up procedures to block out unwanted e-mail addresses. But the problem with that is that, some legitimate e-mail addresses are put on the blacklist, when they should not be. The reason: spammers piggyback off of these legitimate addresses. “If they aren’t continuously protected, spammers will take advantage of them,” says John Agsalud, president of ISDI. “I know several organizations in Hawaii that have had this problem. If somebody is subscribing to the blacklist service they won’t receive e-mail from a particular company, but unfortunately, it could be legitimate e-mail coming through.”

Here are spam-prevention tips from local industry leaders:

  • If you participate in Internet bulletin boards or chat rooms, don’t use your e-mail address. But if you must do so, then start an e-mail “spam” account. Do not use that same one as a personal e-mail address for friends, relatives and business associates. Do not give away your personal e-mail address to anyone on the Internet.
  • If you post public messages to newsgroups or message boards, limit the amount of unsolicited e-mail by address “spoofing.” By adding these extra characters or words to your outgoing address, it will confuse the spammers.
  • If you receive unsolicited e-mail that says, “This will take you off our mailing list,” it is not a good idea to respond. Your reply to that message will only reassure the sender that your e-mail address is still valid. Ignore it or delete it.
  • Be careful when using your e-mail’s auto-reply function, while you are away from the office or on vacation. Upon receiving your out-of-office reply, spammers will take advantage of that and attack your account with more mail.
  • When opening and filtering e-mails, do not immediately click on the “delete” button but transfer the messages to a separate folder. Review those messages later – some may not be spam after all. Even the best filters might erroneously identify a message as spam, when it could be from a long-lost high school friend or relative.
  • When your personal contacts send you e-mail, ask them to always use a special, code word in the subject line. That way, when you receive messages from them you immediately will know that it is not spam.
  • And lastly, do not send a rude message or mail bomb your spammers. Keep in mind that these unsolicited e-mailers are using fake e-mail addresses to hide their real identity. By mail bombing them, there’s a chance that you also may be sending rude messages to an innocent stranger – or a fake address. -CSC

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Author:

Cathy S. Cruz