Tips for Preventing Spam
Spam—it's not just a questionable canned meat product! It's also an equally unsavoury item that presents itself (unwelcomed) in your email and during your Internet browsing. It's easy to dismiss spam as just that—an annoyance. But spam is more than a momentary irritation. Spam can be dangerous.
Spam is unsolicited bulk email where the recipient has not granted permission for the message to be sent. The majority of email spam messages are commercial.
History of Spam
While “spamming” as a form of repetitive, abrasive marketing dates back to before the dawn of the Internet, spam as we now know it—primarily as email spam—first emerged in the early 1990s. Just like the flyer advertising that came before it, companies continued to market products and services through unsolicited channels. The Internet allowed companies to reach out directly with correspondence and make connections with potential consumers.
Advertisers and marketers jumped on this new platform to broaden their reach, and users—green to the new technology—took the bait. Spam was a very successful and profitable marketing tactic in the early days of the Internet, and it was relatively harmless in its infancy.
Spam remains one of the biggest threats to online privacy and security.
It was in the early 2000s that spamming became a more serious issue. Spam emails started to be used by cybercriminals to infect users, steal private information, and extort money. As people grew more tech-savvy, they were quicker to spot suspicious emails, and it almost seemed like that was the end of spam. That was just wishful thinking as decades later, spam remains one of the biggest threats to online privacy and security.
Why is spam bad?
We generally associate spam with annoying email adverts and pop-ups, but spam actually reaches far beyond that. Modern spam aims to catch users off guard with more sophisticated schemes. At its core, spam remains the same: unsolicited sales pitches. But a lot of spam that users receive is actually exposing them to worms or viruses that can have harmful consequences.
Some effects are certainly worse than others, but here are the most common dangers associated with spam.
A clogged up email account that continues to fill with the same junk daily takes up a great deal of your time. Dealing with unwanted email is a daily chore. From unsubscribing to blocking, it's a tedious task and can often feel endless.
For businesses, the time it takes to clean up email cuts into labour productivity and creates time deficits. Time and staffing that would otherwise be spent on day-to-day operations are instead shifted towards trying to end the frustrating cycle of spam proliferation.
More sophisticated spamming can infect your computer with spyware and may put your private data and online banking information at the mercy of hackers seeking financial extortion. Malicious links are often hidden in the body of the email, and can sometimes be tricky to detect and avoid (for example, clicking “unsubscribe” might actually lead you to a dangerous website that is infected with spyware).
Similar to spyware, ransomware seeks financial gain at your expense. Ransomware is immediately noticeable as it locks your computer or your IT network and then demands an immediate ransom in order to regain access. Because ransomware completely shuts down your operations, businesses often feel as though they are battling a ticking time clock. The longer they hold out, the more their business operations will be hit. Often businesses feel obliged to give into the demands of ransomware because they feel out of other options, however this is ill-advised. Note: having continuous backups of your data greatly diminishes the threats posed by ransomware.
Phishing is a more manipulative tactic that spammers use. Instead of stealing information through malicious links, they pose as legitimate companies, potential clients or even bank representatives. Phishing emails are often professionally written and will ask recipients to give them certain information under an innocent guise. They aim to catch their targets off guard and appeal to a person’s natural willingness to be helpful. Spear phishing is a phishing attack aimed at a specific individual within a corporation like a CEO or CFO.
Tips for Preventing Spam
- Do Not Click
- Ask Questions
- Don't Sign Up for Newsletters
- Optimize Your Spam Filter
- Hide Your Email
- Delete/Change Email
Tips for Preventing Spam
It's really difficult to prevent spam completely. Everyone at some point will inevitably be subject to annoying and sometimes dangerous spam. There are steps that can be taken to at least minimize spam...and at the very least, minimize the risks it can pose.
1. Do Not Click
First rule of thumb, never click on a link in an email from a sender you do not know.
2. Ask Questions
When receiving a request over email, consider the sender. Do you know the sender? Were you expecting their email? Is the request legitimate? Why would they need the information? When in doubt, ask for a second opinion.
3. Don't Sign Up for Newsletters
Be aware of the terms and conditions before signing up for newsletters or promotions. Ensure they aren't selling your information to a third party.
4. Optimize Your Spam Filter
Make sure that you have your spam filter set to optimum efficiency. Update all software, and after every update, go back and make sure your settings have not changed.
5. Hide Your Email
Don't put your email on social media accounts, and try to be vigilant about who you share your email with.
6. Delete/Change Email
If spamming has gotten unmanageable, sometimes it's best to cut your losses and start from scratch. Delete your email and register a new account.
Spam is likely unavoidable but you should be aware that brushing it off as a mere annoyance can be dangerous. Take steps to minimize your exposure to spam.
Spam can interfere with your team's productivity. If you need solutions to reduce spam, get in touch with CITI. Our spam filtering solutions block and filter unwanted and unsolicited messages so you can focus on your work.