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Mar 25, 2005

Jun 05, 2006

Ever wonder how spammers get your email address? Here are the top 10 common activities that can land you on a spammer's list.

By avoiding these behaviors or following the tips to reduce your risk you're well on your way to reducing your spam.

Publishing email addresses on a Web Page

Specialized web robots are constantly searching for new web pages that contain email addresses. If your email address is listed on a web page it will be picked up eventually.

Some of these robots look for any available address while others search for particular types of pages. This is why you may get spam with customized subjects like "I saw your resume online" and a link to your home page.

Solutions:

1. Limit how many pages contain your address

Think twice before listing any email address on a web page. Does it really need to be there? Using role-based addresses like "webmaster@" may be a better bet.

2. Use contact forms for your web site.

Contact forms will hide the email address while allowing users to send email to you directly through the web site. The UnionActive system features a built-in contact us form for this purpose.

4. Encode your email addresses using the following javascript code

Cut and paste this code into the spot that your email address should appear using the source view. Replace email-username with the part of the email address to the left of the @ symbol. Replace email-domain with the part of the email address to the right of the @ symbol.

Registering a Domain Name

If you ever register a domain name then your email address is available to anyone who wants it.

Each domain is required to have an administrative, technical, and billing contact. These contact addresses are published via the "whois" system to allow network administrators to track down the owners of a domain.

Unfortunately this also allows anyone who knows your domain name to look up your email address.

Solutions:

1. Use a dedicated address

Every time you register a domain use the same address. "hostmaster" is a common choice. This will at least keep spam out of your personal account.

Make sure that the address you use is valid. If you can't send and receive mail at that address you may have problems managing your domain.

Choosing a Common Email Address

Spammers will often use a technique called "guess and clean" to build up large lists of addresses. First they will generate a large list of common usernames like "bill," "sandra_smith," or "sales". They will then send spam to all of these usernames at a given domain name. Any recipients that aren't bounced by the mail server as being invalid are kept on the list for future spam campaigns.

Solutions:

1. Don't choose a common address

Any address that includes a common first or last name is likely to be guessed. You'll have to weigh the benefits of an easy to remember address vs. one that's hard to guess.

Posting to Usenet 

Spammers use automated tools to scan virtually every post made to Usenet. Some tools only look at the headers of the message to capture From: and Reply-To: addresses, while others will scan the entire message for anything that looks like an address.

If you post to Usenet you can expect to begin receiving spam in a matter of days or weeks.

Solutions:

1. Don't post

The most effective remedy is not to post at all. Find a mailing list or private bulletin board that covers the same topic and ask your question there.

2. "Munge" your address

Many regular posters to Usenet and related forums have started to modify or "munge" their email addresses to thwart spammers. For example they may convert "johnsmith@example.com" into "john_nospam_smith@example.com" The assumption being that humans are smart enough to remove the "_nospam_" but automated address scanners aren't.

Unfortunately recent evidence suggests that spammers are starting to detect and clean some of the more common munging techniques.

3. Use a sacrificial address

If you have multiple email accounts, or you have access to a domain VPO, you may want to set aside an email address to use for high-risk behavior like Usenet posting. You'll still get spam of course, but having it all in one place may make it easier to manage.

Signing up for Online Contests

Why is a company giving away a free car, cash prizes, free software, etc? To get your email address of course.

Lotteries, casinos, sweepstakes, and any other "something for nothing" offers are all prime address harvesting tools.

Solutions:

1. Don't sign up

Just stay away from anything that looks too good to be true. There's no free lunch and that goes double online.

Participating in Chat Rooms, IRC and Instant Messaging 

Many IRC and instant messaging clients will provide your email address to anyone who asks. Similarly many chat rooms, including AOL's, will make lists of usernames available.

These addresses are popular with spammers because they're "fresh" and have a good chance of still being valid.

Solutions:

1. Check your settings

Many chat programs and services offer settings that limit the amount of information that you broadcast to the group. Look for settings that hide screen names and email addresses.

Replying to Spam or Chain Letters

Spammers will often use social engineering to get you to send them your address.

A good example is the "Free CDs" chain letter that circulated a year or so ago. The sender claimed that Amazon.com and Music Blvd would send free CDs to everyone who forwarded the chain letter. The stipulation was that you had to CC the original sender.

Of course the sender was just a spammer collecting email addresses.

Solutions:

1. Don't reply to spam

You should almost never reply to a spam message. Not even to ask to be removed from their list. Any reply will confirm your address as being legitimate and therefore a good target for further spam.

2. Don't forward chain letters

Chain letters range from harmless but annoying junk mail to dangerous scams. Don't inflict them on your friends.

Getting Listed in an Online Directory

Many companies publish their employee's email addresses and other contact information in an online directory. There are also large public directories like bigfoot.com that try to list the general public.

While most of these directories make an attempt to keep spammers out they are still an attractive target.

Solutions:

1. Don't get listed

Don't join any directories and ask your employer to keep your email address private.

Joining a Mailing List 

At one time many mailing list programs would provide a list of subscribers to anyone who asked. In recent years most reputable mailing list administrators have tightened their security to restrict access to subscriber addresses.

As a result, subscribing to a mailing list is now a fairly low-risk activity.

However, you should always make sure you trust the owners of the list. Even if the software is configured correctly, the owners themselves could sell your address.

 

Unfortunately spammers are always on the lookout for new ways to get your address, so you'll probably end up on a spammer's list eventually even if you avoid high risk behavior. However, by being careful you can limit your exposure.


Mar 24, 2005

Mar 24, 2005

Mar 24, 2005

Mar 24, 2005



Page Last Updated: Apr 03, 2005 (14:16:00)
June 24, 2017
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