Top ways to reduce email spam
Last Updated on Thursday, 10 November 2011 07:32 Written by jsconners Wednesday, 9 November 2011 10:48
I would consider myself a “spam connoisseur”, meaning that I have become rather discriminating in my “spam diet”. Let’s face it, with the proliferation of automated million-node botnets, spam is now and will continue to be a fact of life on the Internet. There are ways you can greatly reduce your load and here are the top ways that I know of. If you have any others please feel free to comment:
- Create a “spam catcher” email account: This is your free email account (think Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! etc.) which is used solely for unnecessary registrations, contests and promotions. Usually where you need to supply an email address in order to get password or confirm an account you don’t really care about. This should not be used for your financial or medical accounts for instance. It’s common for free web based services to make advertising revenue and to sell mailing lists. In addition, it’s common for web based services to get hacked meaning your email account is now part of a large database sold and resold…and resold to spammers. Save your other “clean” account for friends, family, important business and the like.
- Don’t display your email address on the web: You would be surprised how many people post their email addresses on web pages like guest books, forums and blogs. These are “low hanging fruit” for spammers because they use automated scripts which scan the text of websites for patterns which match the email address format. If you simply must list an address online you can use a free online text-to-image generating tool like this which will be hidden from the majority of scripts. You can also do something creative like “subscribe [ AT ] hackedlab.com” which also breaks up the common machine recognizable pattern, but I suspect that both of these solutions are “long-in-the-tooth” and that some brilliant kid in St. Petersburg has created a better script…best option is not to post your email address online at all.
- Don’t use “CC” for large address lists: The “carbon copy” or “CC” line on emails is designed to send copies of an email to other people. Any and all addresses placed on this line stay with the message as it passed along and forwarded. This is a common collection technique for large amounts of email addresses and it adds a little something extra to the mix…”social fingerprinting”. This is valuable for phishing campaigns because it shows links between people who may trust each other and can be used for social engineering attacks. Tell all your friends, use the “BCC” or “Blind Carbon Copy” line instead since this is not visible in the message. The SMTP servers strip this information off the message before it hits the recipient’s inbox.
- Don’t reply to spam…ever: When you reply to a spammer asking to be removed from a list you only validate the fact that there is a live person using your address. This could mean that you will receive even more spam because now they know it’s worth their time.
- Turn off HTML view in email: By disabling HTML content (web page style) and the “Auto Preview” feature of most email clients you eliminate another user validation scheme known as a “web beacon” or “web bug” which works by downloading a small (1pixel x 1 pixel) transparent image from a server when the email is opened. This tells the server operator that the message was read. This is a common technique for both legit marketers and spammers.
- Use a service with spam filtering: Most of the current free email services use some sort of spam filtering to catch the obvious and reported stuff. These will end up in your “Junk” mail folder. You can even adjust the sensitivity to catch more messages. A word of caution however, be sure to check the Junk folder from time to time because often legitimate messages get picked up as spam as well.
- Block Spammers:Another nice feature of most common webmail apps the ability to chose to “block sender” which usually will route the message to the Junk or Spam folder. This is a better option then following any links which offer to remove you from the mailing list as once again, this often leads to more spam (with the exception of very reputable companies of course).
- Use a spam management service: Using a free spam management service like “Spam Gourmet” will help you reduce the spam you get from companies you give your email out through the use of an intermediary mail service. You can basically provide a one-time use email address which will will only be able to be used by the recipient as many times as you specify Every message will get forwarded to you up to the threshold you set then they get deleted at the mail handler and you never see anymore “promotional” spam from them.
Implementing these precautions into your email managment routine will go a long way towards reducing the spam you get. Comments?