Once upon a time, spam email was just a nuisance, merely exhortations to purchase sexual enhancement drugs, body part enlargers, allegedly cheaper loans, worthless stocks and shares and fake watches. These days spam takes up over 70% of all email traffic, but apart from clogging up email inboxes and using valuable bandwidth, much of it is malicious, containing viruses and malware or phishing attempts to trick recipients into going to fake banking websites and revealing their passwords and other confidential data. This deluge of spam is getting bigger every day and it seems that legal action is futile.
It is unfortunate that the average email senders do not realise the damage they do when they send or forward emails that have the addresses of others in the body of the emails or in the visible address lines. Emails such as jokes and chain letters wind up being promulgated all over the Internet and fall into the hands of spammers, who harvest those email addresses and add them to their spam databases. It is easy to exercise some diligence to prevent the leaking of email addresses.
It is silly to assist spammers by supplying the email addresses of friends and contacts simply by forwarding emails without stripping their addresses out. All Internet users need to play their part in giving spammers the least opportunity to ply their trade.
Over the years, many attempts have been made to control the receipt of spam by using filters at email client programs such as Outlook or standalone software that uses artificial learning to recognise and isolate and other techniques. Unfortunately most of these measures are only partially effective and some can be useless, as they often categorise legitimate emails as spam and place them into junk email directories, requiring recipients to scan through mountains of spam every to see if any real messages have been erroneously filtered into the junk mail pile.
The first step towards eradicating spam is to set up defences at the email client program, where emails are received and replied to, such as Outlook. Nearly all email clients have filtering facilities, which can usually be found in their Tools menu. Users who wish to establish such filters can usually obtain setup information from the help files pertaining to their email client software.
The first thing to check is whether your ISP provides spam and virus checking on its servers. Log into your account on your ISP's website and go to your email configuration settings. If available, enable the spam and virus filters and that will eradicate much of the spam, as well as hopefully protecting against viruses and malware in emails.
There are many third-party email filtering software packages available that use a variety of methods such as heuristic or Bayesian algorithms to try and determine whether received email is legitimate or spam. None of them are completely successful and they often trash legitimate email and cost money to buy. There are also server-based email scanners such as SpamAssassin that do a fairly good job at stopping most spam, but again, these have been known to block or trash legitimate email in error.
The problem with email client filters and standalone email filtering software at the user's computer is that in virtually all cases, the spam headers or entire messages have to be downloaded to the email client and examined, which costs the recipient valuable bandwidth every day and time wasted.
Spammers do not send their garbage to millions of Internet users by addressing each piece of spam individually. They either purchase databases of millions of email addresses from other spammers or they harvest email addresses from the Internet by using webcrawlers that recognise and save anything with the "@" symbol and add it to the spam database. They also automatically generate lists of common prefix names in an attempt to find as many recipients as possible at a domain. For instance if they find email@example.com, their software may generate a long list of common name prefixes to tack onto the domain, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and so on, in the hope that some may be real users. Spamming millions of people each day doesn't cost the spammers much at all and they often earn millions of dollars getting paid to do this, so no wonder there are so many spammers in business when the rewards are high and the outlays are negligible.
Spammers these days use malware to hijack tens of thousands of computers and turn them into spambot networks. People are tricked into loading malware onto their computers that allow spammers to remotely control them when they are online and send out millions of spams while the computer owners are completely unaware that this is occurring. This is why it is important for every computer user to constantly check and eradicate viruses and malware to prevent this nefarious activity.
However, having to face the fact that there is almost nothing that governments are doing to eradicate spam, it is left to ordinary computer users to act. In most cases, computer users share a lot of the blame because they have not instituted security measures that prevent their computers being used as spambots. Once computers are made secure by a number of very easy and free solutions such as robust firewalls, anti-virus programs, spyware eradicators and cookie control, spammers lose their main source of sending spam for free. This is the way to secure your computer.