How To Fight Spam!
Date Written: June 2, 2001
Written By: Jason Rabel
There's A War Brewing:
If you are like me, you HATE getting spam in your inbox every
day. Even if you never give your email address to anyone, through the corrupt
powers that be, you will inevitably get spam. Before I proceed any further, I
better define spam for those people who are totally clueless to the subject.
- SPAM (spăm) - A trademark used for a canned meat product
consisting primarily of chopped pork pressed into a loaf.
spam (spăm) n. - Unsolicited e-mail, often of a
commercial nature, sent indiscriminately to multiple mailing lists,
individuals, or newsgroups; junk e-mail.
Today we will use the second definition of spam for this
article, however if you have some good recipes using the first definition, feel
free to post it in our forums.
Like the heading says, there is a war brewing, and it's the
spammers against the rest of the world. Just like an modern battle, we are
fighting (and hopefully will eradicate) an enemy that we will never see with our
own eyes. While some of us would love to just bust down their door and beat the
living crap out of the person, that is hardly legal, and there are several
measures that one can take before resorting to that level of violence.
Spam can originate from many sources, and spam lists can come
from many different places too. Generally people buy lists of thousands of
emails which someone has harvested from one way or another. Then they will use
bulk mailers to send out their mass email to people like you and me. There are
many SMTP servers that are "open relay" and even some that are
SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transport Protocol, it's basically
the protocol that is used to send email through the Internet. An "open
relay" email server basically is one that will allow any person to connect
to it and relay their mail through it. A properly configured email server should
only allow authorized users to connect and send mail through. For instance, if
you use some cable modem service, then your provider has a SMTP server for you
to connect to so you can send your outgoing mail. This server should only be
available for the cable modem subscribers, and the rest of the world should get
denied. An open relay server comes about from generally just poor configuration,
where either a person doesn't know, or doesn't care enough to take a few simple
steps to only allow the intended users access to the server.
Anonymous remailers are basically an open relay server, but with
an added twist. These email servers strip out the header info (and sometimes
replace it with bogus info) so you can't trace it back.
If you seem a little confused about what I just said, let me try
and explain the process how email works. You as the end user have an email
program (like Outlook or Eudora), and you have it configured to communicate with
your email server. If your email server is properly configured, then only you
and other users on your network should have access to it. So let's say you send
an email, it starts out on your computer, then you send the message to your
email server. Your email server then looks up the address, and will then try to
communicate with recipients email server directly. If it can then it will pass
the email along to the recipients email server, which will then put it in their
mailbox and they will download next time they check their email. If your email
server can't directly connect, then generally there is an email server set in to
preferences that it will default to, then that email server will try to deliver
Now that I explained that, I just revealed another tool a
spammer could use. You can setup your own SMTP server on your local computer,
which can then distribute email out that way. The rest of the world doesn't know
it's a home computer, they only see it as another SMTP server. However the anti-spammers
have thought of a measure against this, so read on.
Common Sense - Your First Line Of Defense:
Common sense, something that many people lack (look around,
these people are pretty easy to spot). Many people can avoid being put on spam
lists in the first place just by taking a few precautionary measures.
First, if you fill out a survey or some sort of form (either
paper or online), and it asks for an email address, don't put one in unless it
is required (if it's not, I like to put in funny fake email address), and if it
is, you should give them some sort of secondary email account you have (creating
one at yahoo or hotmail works great). Even if they have a privacy statement
saying they won't share your info with anyone, you still shouldn't trust them.
that effectively allows them to share your information with third parties!
Second, often when shopping online, or filling out some form
where your email address is required, sometimes they have checkboxes to opt out
of subscribing to their list. Read the sentence carefully, I've seen some pretty
crafty and confusing sentences where they try to trick you to subscribing to
Third, if you do get an unwanted email, look who it is from.
Also, skim through the who email for web addresses & other email addresses.
If it is a legitimate web site that is trying to get your business (like
Amazon.com), they often have an automated unsubscribe procedure at the bottom
where you can click on a web address to unsubscribe from their database.
*Caution* Doing this is only for websites that you know are legit and will
remove you from their list.
You definitely DON'T want to reply or click on any URL in an
email that is one of those many scams or shady sounding deals. You've gotten
lots of them before like, "Make $1,000,000" or, "100% FREE - NO
STRINGS -$$$" or, "Loose Weight Fast". Basically these are just
long text emails that are full of total BS. Many times at the bottom they say,
"This email is not spam because we are providing information for you to
unsubscribe from our list," but when you do reply with the words
"remove" in the subject, often the message just bounces back because
the email address doesn't exist. However, sometimes it DOES exist, but a spammer
will only use this info to add to their list, now that they know they have a
valid email address. So like I said at first, don't even bother hitting reply to
these kinds of emails, most of the time it will only cause more harm than good.
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