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Spam: prevention is better than cure!

It has been a while since people didn't hear much about spam. Nowadays almost everyone who heard about Internet knows what spam is. And it is no longer surprise to receive a letter from God-knows-who advertising God-knows-what. Spam has become an annoying part of everyday life for an e-mail user. So the question is - Is it possible to get rid of spam? The answer is apparently negative because there will always exist people who read spam and react on it (you must have heard stories about "Nigerian letters"). What you can do for yourself is to protect your personal mailbox from the flow of spam. Spam is like a rain - you cannot stop it but you can take an umbrella to stay dry and enjoy your walk.

There are two main ways to resist spam: filtering out the incoming spam and taking care of not to receive it at all. First way means using various client and server spam filters while the second is just a matter of being careful with your personal e-mail address. Let's talk about the second one.

Web Pages

Fist of all you need to realize that you receive spam because somehow spammers managed to find out your e-mail address. Very often spammers use special programs that send queries to search systems like Google, Yahoo or MSN in order to find web pages containing e-mail addresses. Then the addresses are saved to the database and here they come - you receive a bunch of spam. This simply means that if your address is published somewhere in the Internet then almost surely sooner or later you will get your piece of spam flow. If you are unlikely to be happy about this you should find the web pages with your e-mail address using different search systems. If your e-mail is unimportant on the web page you should better delete it. Otherwise it is sensible to write the e-mail in a way like "name(@)domain.com" or "name(nospam)domain.com". When a human reads such an address, he/she can easily understand what this means while for a program this will not be a valid e-mail address.

Instant Messengers

Another "source" of e-mail addresses is various Internet messengers like ICQ, Yahoo messenger etc. where during the registration the user is usually asked to enter the e-mail address. After that the address becomes available to every user of the messenger. So spammers use fake user names to get access to other users personal information, particularly e-mail addresses. Fortunately, in latest messengers versions users personal information is not available for everyone but sometimes it is still possible to trick the system and moreover many users use older unprotected versions. If you are using a messenger and your e-mail address is in your personal info then your steps should be as above - delete your address or write it in a way inappropriate for automatic recognition.

Form Filling

Finally, probably the most common way for an e-mail address to get to spammers bases is when people carelessly enter their e-mails on some web sites. Often during the registration process for a product/service in Internet the company asks the client e-mail address. And then it all depends on the company whether the address is used only to contact the client. If the company is reliable and cares about its image then your e-mail will be kept in secret. In this case the only thing you can "worry" about is that you will be automatically subscribed to the company news-list. If you are not interested in the newsletters you can always unsubscribe from the list. Unfortunately, there exist companies that do not really care about the clients and the safety of their personal data. If you are unlucky to deal with such a company then quite soon your e-mail address will be in various spammers bases. By the way, a few times the author was himself in the situation when he started receiving spam on one of his e-mail addresses. Remarkably, the address was new and known to the only company that seemed to be trustworthy at the beginning.

Common Rules to Prevent Receiving Spam

It seems impossible to completely avoid such situations but it is possible to decrease the risks by following the below recommendations:

• Try to avoid writing your e-mail address unless this is really necessary. Quite often it is enough to enter some fake address like aaaaa@yahoo.com . It doesn't look nice, but does the perspective of receiving tons of junk look nicer? NB: When you enter a fake address be sure that in the future you are not going to receive on it some important information otherwise use ONLY your real address.

• Be sure that the company you are going to deal with is trustworthy. If this is a serious well-known company like Microsoft, Google or another known to you reliable company then you can easily trust it. If you are not 100% sure in the company then think twice before giving them some of your personal data.

These simple recommendations must help you in protecting your mailbox from spam. But is there going to be less spam in general in the nearest future? Let's hope together. Good luck!

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About the Author: Gregory Orlov, Senior Developer at LuxContinent, is a specialist in the area of data processing, particularly in spam-filtering field. He is the architect of Spam Reader - popular spam filter for Microsoft Outlook.
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