Spam is an ongoing issue that costs businesses and individuals billions of dollars in lost time and resources. Spam includes unsolicited commercial email (UCE) and other unwanted bulk email.
How to Prevent Spam
There is no way to totally prevent spam, but here are some precautions that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of spammers getting your email address:
- Be careful who you give your email address to. This includes websites and anyone you might email.
- Make sure your computer and computers on your network are virus and malware free.
- Make sure your website is free of malware and security vulnerabilities. If you are using a third party script or code on your site, this usually means running the latest secure version.
- Use secure passwords for your email and hosting account to prevent hackers from guessing and logging in.
- If your friends are sending you emails sent to a large recipient list, request that they use BCC instead of TO or CC, so that other recipients cannot see your email address; or request they stop including you if you do not want to receive the emails.
- Do not list your email address on your website or anywhere the public can access it.
How to Stop the Spam
Unfortunately, once spammers figure out your email address, it is hard to prevent them from sending you spam; however, there are many options for filtering your email to reduce the spam that reaches your inbox.
We offer several filtering tools that can assist in filtering the spam from your web hosting inbox.
Many third party email clients, such as Outlook, also have additional spam filtering built into their programs. Using one or a combination of these options can assist with cleaning out the spam that you receive.
How Spammers Get Email Addresses
Unfortunately there are many ways spammers can harvest or find out about your email address(es) and then send spam to you.
The following is a list of some of the ways spammers can get email addresses without you giving it to them directly:
- Your computer could have a virus or malware on it that records keystrokes (i.e. everything you type) or sniffs packets (i.e. reads everything going over your internet connection). Through these methods, spammers would be able to obtain your email addresses, passwords and other confidential information.
- Another computer or workstation on your network or workgroup could have a virus or malware that collects email addresses and other information passing through the network.
- A script on your website could have a security vulnerability that allows a hacker to access information on your hosting account, including your email addresses.
- Since emails are relayed from server to server until they reach their destination, one of the servers your email passed through could have packet sniffing software installed, which would allow someone to collect email addresses and any information passing through the server. Emails are typically relayed through several companies’ servers before arriving at its destination, similar to how physical postal mail would be relayed between more than one mail carrier until it reached you.
- Your internet service provider (ISP) could be gathering emails and selling them.; this is unlikely at reputable ISPs, but it has been known to occur.
- You have an easy to guess email address. Some spammers simply try to guess valid email addresses (by prefixing common names and common addresses to your domain name). Some spammers have a huge database of prefixes and domain names they will try, including not-so-common names.
- A hacker could have guessed or obtained hosting control panel login information and retrieved your email addresses that way.
Other Methods of Harvesting Email Addresses
It is all too common that people unknowingly volunteer their email address or leave it out absentmindedly, making your email address easy for a spammer to pick up. Methods through which spammers obtain voluntary email address include:
- You provided your email address to a website, such as when you signed up or commented on a post, and they gave your email address to spammers (intentionally or unintentionally). Their website could also have been hacked through a security exploit.
- You signed up for a mailing list and forgot you signed up.
- You signed up for a mailing list, and they gave your email address (intentionally or unintentionally) to spammers.
- You sent an email to someone, and they forwarded it to someone else who harvested your email.
- Someone sent you an email also addressed to other recipients, and they used TO or CC instead of BCC, making your email address visible to anyone who received the email (or who was forwarded the email thereafter). Any of the recipients could have made your email available to spammers.
- You used your email on a discussion list that reveals your email address to other users. Any of the other users could have harvested your email address.
- Your email address is on your business card (or posted where people can find), and someone decided to add you to their mailing list without your permission.
And these are just some of the ways a spammer could get your email address.