We all get it from time to time.  Those unwanted emails that attempt to persuade us to buy prescription drugs or visit a site to be eligible for a vacation package that seems too good to be true. SPAM: and we thought snail mail was bad.

SPAM is typically the unsolicited emails that a user gets in their inbox.  Some can be as harmless as driving traffic to a particular site or service; and some can be malicious in nature, sending you to a website filled with infected (virus) files.

No one really likes SPAM and we subconsciously either click links to peak our curiosity or we delete the email as an afterthought.  The funny thing about it is that despite our efforts to eradicate the problem, like unwanted rodents, they keep coming back.  So what are the risks of SPAM and how do we get rid of it?  Although there is no sure fire proof to rid all SPAM, understanding how your email address ended up on a mailing campaign and knowing what viable options you have , can help reduce this pain.

How Do I Get SPAM?

So we start our by asking ourselves?  How in the world did I end up on a SPAM campaign?  In this day and age where data and content are king….I will touch base on the three main culprits.

1)      MOBILE APPS – Free is not always good and often comes with a price.  When you download applications from the android or iOS markets, you may be blinding allowing the publisher to obtain pertinent information from your device including your name, phone number, email address and even the contact information of your friends and family.

All this information can be used to solicit products, services and potentially entice you to click on a link to an infected website.  I recall an instance in which I downloaded a card game program from the Android Market and within seconds of opening the application, I was bombarded with text messages from unknown numbers telling me that I won a cruise.

2)      FORUMS – Another popular way to end up on the campaign list is by posting on forums.  Many programs today exist to scan forums for email addresses listed and/or user names of the poster.  With the extrapolation of users names, these programs are notorious for duplicating the user name with different domain names in hopes to have reach you or another user with that combination.

3)      SOCIAL SITES – Social Media websites are the most prevalent way in our society to take information and use it for SPAM.  From the moment you sign up for the service, you are providing your information that can be used to send you unsolicited emails.  Furthermore, when you add applications/games (i.e. Farmsville, MafiaWars) to your profile, some of your information may be transferred over to the publisher.

What Are The Risks?

So what is the big idea with SPAM.  Some are perfectly harmless, offering products and services based off of purchases you made or interests that you’ve expressed.  Others will try to lure you into a website that is design to take information or worse, automatically installing computer viruses, tracking tools or malware on your system.

With Mobile Applications, your contact list may be subject to unsolicited text messages.  Before you download an application, make sure that you review what access you are granting the program to.  If it is confirms that it has access to your phone lists and text messages, ask yourself if it make sense for the application to have access to it.  You may want to rethink or find an alternative program for your needs.

What Can I Do To Get Rid Of It?

So the underlining question is, how do I reduce the SPAM that I receive?  Although, there is no sure 100% way to get rid of SPAM, here are some tips that should help you significantly reduce your SPAM:

1)      Unsubscribe Vs. Reporting Spam – Most solicitation emails have the option to unsubscribe to their mailing campaign by simply clicking on the link located in tiny print on the bottom footer.  I CAUTION YOU, THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST OPTION.

Some lesser known companies will have the option to unsubscribe but when you select the link, it redirects you to a website that requires you to enter your email address to unsubscribe.  When you comply with this direction, many times you are signing up for another service or adding yourself to another SPAM campaign. If clicking the link does not work without other user input, do not proceed further.

RULE OF THUMB: Only use the Unsubscribe option from reputable, well-known companies that you know and trust (i.e. Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart).  If it is a company or email address that you are not familiar with, mark the email as SPAM, so that your email provider can filter this from the server.  Many email providers rank different domains based off of users reporting SPAM to them.  So do your part.

2)      Choose Users Names Different From Email – Many online users are notorious for using the same user names as their email address.  For example, JohnSmith posted on a forum.  His user name may be extracted from a SPAM bot in which they will send emails to various common domains (i.e. @yahoo, @gmail, @aol, @msn), in hopes of getting a hit.  Then off to the races.

3)      Explore Privacy Settings – All social sites have a privacy policy that will tell you how your information is being used.  It is generally located at the bottom right of the main website.

Just because you signed up with a social media service with every privacy option unchecked (opt-in), doesn’t mean that you cannot go back and opt-out.  Access the account or privacy settings.  There are generally a list of different options and explanation how this will affect you.

As always, if you feel like your system has been compromised, contact us for a PC Health check.


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