Spam, otherwise known as junk email or unsolicited commercial email; is quickly becoming on of the most prevalent complaints of internet users. Not only is it annoying, but it is quickly becoming a dangerous and potentially expensive problem for businesses as well as individuals.
How is it dangerous?
First and foremost, spam is one of the leading causes for clogged networks and slow connections. American Online, one of the nation’s largest internet service providers; transmits over 8 trillion spam email messages a year. Those messages tie up valuable bandwidth and can slow down entire networks. Although end users will rarely see a significant change in their connections, they can rest assured that a noteworthy portion of their monthly bill is paying for that lost bandwidth.
Most spam includes images or weblinks within it commercial content. Although some of it is begin or at worst annoying, an increasing portion contains sexually explicit content. Spam messages frequently contain pornographic pictures or links to sex-related websites.
These messages are not suited for children yet can easily be accidentally opened by minors. In addition to simple sexual content, some of the most severely sexually explicit spam can contain images of such illegal and offensive acts such as bestiality or child pornography.
Aside from slowing connections or carrying unwanted pornography, spam is the leading cause of transmitted computer viruses. Computer viruses are programs which run malicious code which can damage computer systems, delete files and steal personal information. These viruses are often hidden in an email messages as attachments such as a pictures. Email transmitted viruses can render entire systems inoperable and delete important documents forever.
How can you stop it?
The easiest and most simple way to stop unwanted email is to employ a spam blocker. Spam blockers are manufactured by a variety of companies and be anywhere from free to costing upwards of 50$.
There are three basic types of spam blocking software. The first is a key-word blocker. These programs examine the header and body of an email message looking for a series of predefined criteria. For example, a program could be instructed to flag or block any email message containing the word “sex”.
Although seemingly straightforward, the spam blocker also has to stop any spelling variation of sex such as sexx or s_e_x. Although this type of spam blocker can do very well at stopping spam, it also has a tendency to block personal emails which may or may not contain flagged words.
The second type of spam blocker is an address list blocker which blocks or flags any emails not coming from a predefined list of addresses (such as the user’s address book).
Although this type of spam blocker does a very good job of not blocking personal emails from friends or family, it can inadvertently delete important messages from users not on the original predefined list. This can make it very easy to miss potentially important yet unexpected emails.
The third type of spam blocker is actually a hybrid of the aforementioned varieties. It will filter emails from known friendly accounts directly to the inbox while holding potentially dangerous emails in the filter. The user can then go in and sort through emails from either friendly strangers (non spam emails from unfamiliar addresses) or unfriendly strangers (spam emails from unfamiliar addresses).
Although these programs do require a slight amount of user interaction, they can protect your computer and keep you from inadvertently deleting important emails.