Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam...

Monty Python was a hit back when their off-beat style of humor was first introduced to the US. For my friends and me, it was a Sunday night ritual to catch the program on the local PBS station. They had one particular little skit about a local restaurant that included the canned meat "Spam" in every menu item. That one little skit gave the word Spam a whole new meaning years later as junk email is now commonly referred to as spam.

The technical terms for the junk email messages that hit your various email accounts are "Unsolicited Commercial Email" (UCE) or "Unsolicited Bulk Email" (UBE). Regardless of what it is called, it is annoying and can be used by the senders for nefarious purposes.

I had a few reports last week from users seeing some of these spam messages in their inboxes so I thought it may be worthwhile to provide a bit of information.

Here is a recent peak at one of our email message filters, which by the way is one of the best available filters world-wide: 

In an eight-day period, this filter looked at over 1,200,000 incoming messages to On average, for every one legitimate message that you received in your Barrington 220 inbox, we threw out nine messages. I have seen these figures go as high as 97.5% blocked messages in past years.

Thanks to the email message filtering system we use, many of our staff members rarely see a junk email message. Others see them on a more regular basis. Why the difference, and what steps can be taken to prevent spam messages? Here are a few tips…

  1. Use your email address for work-related messages only.
  2. Watch the “check boxes.” Many websites have an enrollment process to get deeper into the website. At the bottom of these forms is usually a check box which, when agreeing to it, allows the host of the site, and possibly others, to provide you with email messages. Are you signing up to a legitimate website? Is it work-related? Did you read the "fine print" and did you uncheck the "send me tons of email" box?
  3. Do not reply to a spam message if you receive one. Doing so makes your email address more valuable to spammers as they now know it is an active account.
  4. Do not use the "unsubscribe" feature on a spam email message for the exact same reason. By all means, use the "unsubscribe" button from legitimate companies if you no longer wish to receive email messages from them. If Kohl’s is sending you coupons and sale information weekly, you can unsubscribe without worries.
  5. It is best not to open an unsolicited message, however if you do open such a message do not click on the links or attachments. At worse you may introduce a virus to your computer and at best, you just let the “spammers” know that you have an active account.
  6. Be careful with your email address. Be cautious when you provide it online.
  7. Avoid including your email address when posting on a forum or blog. Forums or blogs are great places for spammers to “harvest” email addresses.
  8. Lastly, please do not feel obligated to send the junk mail to technology staff members. We also receive spam from spammers.
Usually, I see an ebb and flow with junk mail. If you tend to get a bit of junk mail now, it will usually subside if you do not respond. Spammers are always looking for active accounts and will drop yours if they think it is "dead." In addition, our email filtering system, which is updated daily, will typically pick up on the new tactics that are being used by spammers in attempts to avoid the filters.

I’d like to end this story by noting, “welcome to messaging in the modern age,” but that would be too simplistic. If we look at the habits of our Barrington 220 students, they will likely tell you in so many words that to them, email is obsolete and too slow. They have little use for it. Consider asking your students which digital communication methods they use most regularly as you design or refine your classroom communication plans.

1 comment:

  1. That chart is pretty interesting. Thanks for the tips.


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