Dealing with Spam
Dealing with Spam
If you’ve used e-mail for any time at all, you’ve no doubt had your inbox deluged with messages pitching aphrodisiacs, mortgages, junk stocks, pornography, and substances that claim to help you lose weight in your sleep. But don’t despair. Such messages don’t have to be part of the Internet experience. You can avoid them, or certainly reduce the annoyance level, with a few simple measures. Some spammers harvest e-mail addresses from the Internet by using a “spider” (also known as a robot or crawler)—a computer program that creeps through the World Wide Web collecting information you’d prefer to keep private. So the better you are at hiding your address from faceless prowlers, the less spam you will receive. 1. If your Internet Service Provider gives you the choice, create a long, fairly complicated address preceding the @; don’t just use your first name: firstname.lastname@example.org is better than email@example.com. Better still is donquixotedelamancha@example. com. It may be unwieldy, but your friends can always use a nickname—or just click on your address. Happily, longer addresses confuse spammers, who—without having exact user accounts in hand—use a “dictionary attack” to find them, testing the validity of every possible address from lists of common words and names: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and so forth. 2. Again, unless some online service makes it mandatory, don’t use your e-mail address as part of a login name or identity. However convenient that might make it when logging in to eBay, it’s equally convenient for spammers. 3. Use a second, public address for nonpersonal mail and for public posting. Create a free account with Hotmail, Yahoo, or Excite, or set up another screen name if you use either AOL or another Internet Service Provider that allows you to have multiple addresses. This keeps your main address private and exposes only your public address to spammers. Check the public account at least occasionally, in case something innocent has come in. Then massively delete the rest. It’s important to learn how your e-mail client (the program you use to send and receive e-mail) handles thorough deleting; in Outlook Express, for example, you have to delete an e-mail you don’t want from your inbox, delete it from the “Deleted” folder, and then compact folders before you are genuinely rid of it.
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