What is spam? and How to stop it ?

email spam

Spam is the illegal ways of thrusting the mailboxes and Internet with the copies of the same message to people that would otherwise tend to ignore it or choose to reject it. In most cases, commercial advertising or black box advertising methods are used to promote dubious schemes or products and quick money making ventures that are often illegal.

Spam in your inbox

You’ve must have been at the receiving end of unwanted spam many times. It really doesn’t matter whether you use Yahoo! Or Gmail email addresses, there is never an end of unsolicited mails selling a variety of illegal products. For better understanding, there are the most common categories of spam:

  • Cancellable Usenet Spam- These are single messages sent to a group or community of 20 or more users and is generally aimed at ‘lurkers’ who read but don’t post any message. Additionally, Usenet spam takes away the utility of informative newsgroups by a barrage of posts that are irrelevant and useless advertising.
  • Email Spam- These unwanted emails are targeted towards users using direct messages. A database of email spam lists are created by stealing or hacking email accounts, trolling the web for published email addresses. People can also buy email addresses to sell unsolicited services and products.
  • Bulk Spam- Another variant of email spam is bulk spamming public lists or mailing lists where the addresses or IDs are picked up from discussion boards, newsletter subscribers and email discussion forums.
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email spam

Usually networks of virus infected computers and Botnets send about 75% to 85% of spam to email addresses worldwide. Without anti spam surveillance, US companies lose nearly $21 billion every year which includes employee productivity, bandwidth and infrastructure. But implementation of a powerful anti spamming software is the first step towards data protection.  Spammers usually utilize automated tools to subscribe to numerous mailing lists to steal the email IDs of as many as possible.

 

Spam in blogs comments

 

Another variant of spamming is utilizing spam in blogs comments whereby the spammer creates useless or no value added posts at many blogs that point to the spammer’s website. It is also known to use spamdexing and automatic postings or comments about commercial services to blogs, as comments to publicly accessible discussion boards. You need to be aware that any web based application that displays the hyperlinks or allows link-backs that are submitted by visitors’ maybe a target for spammers.

 

By link backs to the spammers, there is an artificial enhancing of that website rank through Search Engine Optimization. This result in the spammer’s site being listed way ahead of the other organic linked websites for specific keyword searches, leading to paying customers and increased number of visitors. However, considering the mass spamming emails and blogs comments lead to the Google announcement in the year 2005 that any hyperlinks with rel="nofollow" will not be crawled to increase the SEO of the website. It is followed by MSN and Yahoo! Search engines.

 

But the main disadvantage is that spammers still place links back to fake or spamming websites despite the fact that links are ignored for organic linking.

 

Scripts or automated robots

 

A script or automated robots – known as Spambots- are designed to assist in spamming websites or to a pre-designated list of email IDs that have been hacked or stolen from public domains.

These automated Spambots crawl the Internet to harvest email addresses and build a mailing list (that are often sold for a high price to other spammers) to send out unsolicited emails about illegal activities- pornography, gambling and selling medication that is usually illegal in some countries. As email addresses have a specified format, spambots are easy to write. These web crawlers gather a variety of email addresses from public chat room groups, newsgroups, special interest groups.

 

In most of the cases, spambots are camouflaged as advertising links and here are some most common ways that they’re able to get your email Id to spam your mailbox:

  • Harvest email ids from guest books, contact forms, forums and chat rooms.
  • Download free program that slow down the internet
  • Numerous website scarpers steal the content and create automated doorway pages.
  • Malware, worms and viruses
  • Botnets and computers are made into zombies without the knowledge of the owners
  • Automated file name modifications with malware to match the user computer search queries.
  • Automated sweepstakes portals and instant win games that lead to downloaded malware
  • Automated tasks for promotional websites that lure on winning instant prizes.

 

To counter spambots and automated robots, many techniques such as Address munging, where email addresses are written in such a format that only humans can read.  Other methods include displaying the email id as an image using inline CSS.

 

Spamming machines

The technical jargon for a collection of spamming machines, automated robots and malware software that run automatically is better known as Botnets. These spamming machines are often named after viruses and malicious software and usually there are multiple Botnets operated by individuals with criminal intent.

‘Botnets’ are also used to refer to zombie computers that refer to a collection of compromised machines that run software which have been indivertibly downloaded and inject Trojans, worms, malware under a common command-and–control or ‘C&C’ infrastructure.  A ‘bot master’ can control the group of zombie machines or spamming machines that can control the group of servers from anywhere in the world.

Forum spambots troll the Internet searching for wiki, blogs, forums and guestbook to make automatic submissions to submit website links. Most of these spamming machines utilize OCR technology that is able to bypass CAPTCHAs that are currently present on the website. Email and blogs spamming messages include links to phishing sites, scammers and involves target marketing.

To prevent spambots or spamming machines from posting on wiki, blogs and forums is benefited by installation of mail server on the host. By using security questions and CAPTCHA codes, validation by spambots cannot be provided generally.

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Spammers usually utilize automated tools to subscribe to numerous mailing lists to steal the email IDs of as many as possible. After they get your email ID, they can possibly steal your personal information, leading you to get protection from companies like lifelock, LifeLock, before your identity gets stolen.