What Is Spam (Types and Solutions)

The increase in broadband connectivity and the arrival of major events such as elections or the Soccer World Cup accelerate the activity of spam, that is, the traffic of e-mails sent to several recipients who did not request them is increased. 

Disguised as serious e-mails, with promotions impossible to refuse and asking for personal data, they are easy traps to fall into.

The practice of spam not only drives the consumer away, but also creates the feeling of invasion of privacy and lack of personalization. 

The generalization and invasion of privacy is all we do not want in this era of participation. 

Therefore, it is important to take some precautions to not be fooled by these cybercriminals, which we can find throughout this post about everything we need to know about spam.

What is spam?

Spam is the term used to refer to unsolicited e-mails, which are generally sent to a large number of people, that is, Spam is any message sent to several recipients who did not specifically request such a message. 

That is why spam is known as junk email. When the content is exclusively commercial, this type of message is also known as UCE (Unsolicited Commercial E-mail).

The people who send spam generally buy or generate a list of e-mail addresses to which messages are sent. 

The origin of these messages tends to be falsified to hide who actually sent them. 

At this point, it is a good idea to know some of the most used terms when we talk about spam:

What is a spammer?

It is one that uses addresses of unknown recipients for sending unsolicited messages in large numbers. There are three types of spammers:

Spam User: Is that spammer who uses addresses of unknown recipients to disseminate their products and services.

E-mail Deals: It is that spammer that sells lists of email addresses without authorization from their owners.

Spam Dealer: Is that spammer who uses his address lists and sells spam services to a spam user.

The most condemned types of spammers are the so-called “Email dealer” and “Spam dealer”, since they are those that make a profit through the illegal sale of a product or service. 

They are true traffickers of the privacy of others and therefore much more harmful than the spam user. 

For this reason, the “Email dealer” and “Spam dealer” invariably make use of the most various strategies to remain anonymous.

Tools most used by spammers

Direct Marketing: It is the name that spammers traditionally give spam. 

It constitutes a flagrant euphemism. 

Marketing, by definition, is the attention of customer needs taking into account their interests and preferences. 

Obviously, the indiscriminate and insistent use of unknown electronic addresses, with an expectation of return that hardly reaches a rate of 0.1%, does not cover anyone’s expectations. 

On the contrary, it becomes a great disrespect to the recipient of the message in addition to congesting the communication channels.

Harvesting: It consists in automatically obtaining e-mail addresses from internet sites through programs called “e-mail collectors” or “e-mail extractors”. 

There are an infinity of these programs, some can be downloaded from the Internet for free, and others are sold. It is the activity that supplies the raw material of spam.

Bulk Mailer: Automatic sending programs for a large number of messages, which allow the use of open servers.

Crimes committed by Spam dealers

Faced with the natural reaction of society against spam, many spammers, those who feel their businesses are threatened, appeal to illegal acts such as:

E-mail Forgery: Also known as “Email Spoofing”. It consists of masking the sender, placing a false name and address in the sender field of the message. 

It can be either a non-existent or temporary address, or an address that belongs to another person. 

For this reason, care should be taken when marking a sender as spam, since the true origin of the message IP must always be verified.

Revenge Spam: Or vengeful spam, is an attack perpetrated by a spammer who uses his e-mail and Forgery e-mail lists (see definition above) to denigrate the image of the owner of the electronic address used in the forgery. 

It is a crime of False Identity and Ideological False of different criminal codes of several countries. It can be reported in any legal entity. 

In civil justice, it is sensitive to a conviction of compensation for damages and moral damages.

Joe-Job: It is a Revenge Spam attack with the specific objective that the messages returned by erroneous addresses reach the supposed sender of the message. 

This only happens when the servers that receive the emails do not verify the originating IP of the message, which cannot be falsified. 

The victim and his server are then targets of countless returned emails and can also be mistakenly reported in the spam combat media.

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Types of spam and How to identify spam?

Generally, spam messages are only advertisements, images or links. 

In most cases they are just everyday inconveniences; but in other cases (in the case of attachments or links) the messages may contain malicious code programs (viruses, spyware and others).

Spam messages can have the following contents:

Rumors or hoaxes (Hoax): As the name implies, they are false stories. 

Stories of a child who will be transplanted or that the entire Amazon will be destroyed. 

These messages are created so that the user believes they are true and resends the e-mail, but in reality they are nothing more than rumors. 

If you receive messages of this type, we already know what to do!

Chains (chain letters): These are messages that end up saying “Send this message to 10 people in the next 10 minutes and you will have good luck, otherwise you will have bad luck for life.” 

When you receive an e-mail of this type just delete it.

Propagandas: They offer a product at a much lower price than the real one and you are requested to access a link found in the e-mail. 

These types of messages can take you to a website with immoral content, malicious programs or links with more ads. Never access this type of links and go to the delete button.

Scams: They are fake advertisements. They are the typical e-mails that offer the wonder of working at home, miraculous employment or study opportunities, including easy access to financial loans. None of this is real.

Scams (Phishing): The most subtle way. Spammers (the creators of spam), create an e-mail informing you that your documents are invalid or that your registration in an online store (which you may have never accessed) is outdated, so when you click on the link in the E-mail automatically you are taken to a page to update that data. 

At that time, it is when your data is stolen on a cloned page. Phishing is widely used to steal data and use it. That is, it is one of the most subtle but also the most dangerous Internet tactics.

Problems caused by spam

Now that we have an idea about spam, it is a good idea to know what are the problems that spam can cause an Internet user. 

In this sense, thanks to spam, users of the service of any email such as Hotmal, Outlook or Gmail can be affected in various ways. For example:

Do not receive e-mails: Most Internet providers limit the size of the user’s mailbox on their server. 

If the number of spam received is very large, the user risks having his mailbox full of unsolicited messages. 

If this happens, the user will no longer be able to receive e-mails and, until he can free up space in his mailbox, all received messages will be returned to the sender. 

The user can also stop receiving e-mails in cases where inefficient ant spam rules are being used, for example, by classifying some legitimate messages as spam.

Unnecessary waste of time: For each spam received, the user needs to spend a certain time to read it, identify the email as spam and delete it from the mailbox.

Increase in costs: Regardless of the type of internet access used, the person who pays the bill for sending spam is the one who receives it. 

For example, for a user who uses dial-up internet access, each spam represents a few seconds of more connection than he is paying.

Loss of productivity: For those who use e-mail as a work tool, receiving spam increases the time dedicated to the task of reading e-mails, in addition to the possibility of ignoring important e-mails, which are not going to be read, are going to be read late or deleted by mistake.

Receive inappropriate or offensive content: Since most of the spam is sent to random sets of e-mail addresses, it is very likely that the user receives messages with improper or offensive content.

Financial damages caused by fraud: Spam has been widely used as a vehicle to disseminate fraudulent schemes online, which attempt to induce the user to visit cloned pages of financial institutions or to install malicious programs designed to steal personal and financial data. 

This type of spam is known as “phishing” or “scam”. 

The user may suffer great financial damages, if he provides said information or executes the instructions of this type of fraudulent e-mail.

Spam: How do spammers get our email addresses?

Spammers use various ways to obtain e-mail addresses, from the purchase of databases with thousands or millions of e-mails, to the generation of their own lists of e-mails obtained via malicious programs, “Harvesting” and attacks of dictionary.

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Obtaining through malicious programs is possible due to the close proximity between spammers and those who develop such programs. 

A malicious program, many times, is designed to sweep the computer where it was installed in search of e-mail addresses, for example, in the user’s address book. 

Collected e-mail addresses are sent to spammers.

The “Harvesting” is a technique used by spammers is to sweep web pages, files, discussion lists, among others, in search of e-mail.

Many times, e-mail addresses appear altered. Examples are web pages or discussion lists that see e-mail addresses with the “@” replaced by “(at)” and the points replaced by the word “dot”. 

It is worth remembering, however, that the programs that implement the “Harvesting” techniques used by spammers can provide for these substitutions.

In dictionary attacks, meanwhile, the spammer creates email addresses from lists of names of people, words present in dictionaries and / or the combination of alphanumeric characters.

How to avoid spam?

Over the years and the relentless advance of the Internet, spam, commonly known as Junk Mail, has become one of the most widespread illegal activities, which have caused great discomfort among email users.

According to a study conducted recently by the McAfee Company, currently 92% of emails sent via the Internet correspond to some type of spam, placing users from the United States as receiving the largest amount of mail garbage daily.

According to the research carried out by McAfee, despite the existence of different filters offered by mail servers, which are supposed to be tools to prevent the reception of spam and viruses, they have not been able to prevent the proliferation of this activity.

In general, according to the McAfee report, most of the spam broadcasts correspond to advertisements, and although the publicity for most is annoying, it can also cause problems in the normal operation of the mail servers, since in addition to slowing down applications can also cause our inbox to be saturated with these annoying messages.

The situation becomes more serious when it comes to spam that contains viruses that are activated when the user innocently accesses any of the links contained in the message.

What can we do to avoid spam?

To avoid being victims of this type of activity, there are a number of tricks that can help us not to be constant recipients of spam. 

In principle, we must avoid forwarding messages that we have received from the type of mail chain. In this way we will also avoid collaborating with the spread of spam.

If we need to send the same message to several contacts, we can use the CCO option to prevent each of our contacts from seeing the addresses of the rest.

When we check our mail it is convenient that when reading emails from senders that we do not know and look suspicious to us, we will visualize them in text mode and not as HTML, since you could accidentally click on any of the malicious links contained in the message.

If we have detected a junk mail, never under any circumstances should we send messages to the sender, since through a series of tricks, spammers, that is, the people who send spam, confirm our address to continue with the sending of junk mail.

A good tool against harmful spam is to make sure we have updated the security of our operating system, use an effective antivirus and firewall, and that they are permanently activated. 

In addition, we can use the word blocking option on our mail server, which will help us to filter the content.

If we need to use our email address to subscribe to a website, become members of a forum, or fill out an online form, we can choose to use an extra account for this type of activities and avoid spam, for which it is recommended Use Gmail

Also, when, for example, we leave messages in a forum and some similar activity, we can modify the text of our email address by typing username arrobagmailpuntocom, instead of username@gmail.com , or replace letters, for example the “oes” by zeros, or the reverse

Taking some of these precautions we can avoid receiving large amounts of junk mail, although not in its entirety, so we must be alert to the uses we give to our mailbox.

The best tips for not receiving spam

The combination of terms “Junk Mail” defines by itself all those e-mails that most users have received or have ever received, and that it is precisely unwanted email that enters our inbox.

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Currently, the proliferation of this type of mail is such that if we do not take any precaution in this regard, picking up the mail from our server could become an impossible task to perform.

In addition to spam, not only is it annoying because of the large number of messages of this type that we can receive in just a small fraction of time, but they can also cause a lot of damage to our computer, because they are usually carriers of viruses and others. Types of fierce threats.

In order to protect ourselves from spam, we have several very simple options that we can implement. 

Simple, but very effective. And if we make sure to put them into practice, we will obtain a degree of security against the scourge of receiving all this junk mail.

Therefore, here are some essential tips to avoid being victims of spam.

Never reply to “spam”: Most of the time it is a lie when they say they will remove your name from the list, if you respond to the message asking to leave. 

What the sender really wants is to confirm that your e-mail is active. In addition, if you respond, they will sell your address to other spammers around the world, which can mean more dirt in their e-mail tray.

Do not advertise our e-mail: Do not publish our e-mail in any way in forums, search websites, contact lists, social networks or internet pages. 

The same should be done when we use an online chat service. It should be noted that websites that require you to register or request an e-mail to give you free products or services generally use your e-mail as a method to generate orders.

These spammers use techniques that allow them to find and store in a database all the email addresses they find surfing the web. 

It’s also a good idea to never publish the full email address. That is, we must replace some parts of it with symbols.

For example “name [ARROBA] domain [PUNTO] com” is an excellent alternative to prevent automatic search systems used by spammers from detecting the email address in the text.

Another point to keep in mind is to never request any type of activity with our email account in an email marked as spam or whose sender seems suspicious. 

Most of them incorporate a link to perform these actions, but what really happens is that our email address will be forwarded to other spammers who will use it to send us even more unwanted mail.

In cases where it is absolutely necessary to use a visible email account, the best thing we can do is use an email address different from the one we use to chat with friends and relatives.

In any other situation, it is necessary to avoid that our address is visible to all those systems that collect this type of information and that are in increasing numbers in the network.

Use a spam filter: Although they still do not work perfectly, anti-spam software can help keep spam at an administrable level. Check with your provider what the spam policy is. 

Many of them already allow you to redirect the spam messages you receive, helping to prevent them from reaching you in the future.

If we use any online mail service such as Gmail or Yahoo, they already incorporate powerful spam filters among their basic functions that keep us safe from any junk mail we may receive.

These filters, over the years have proved to be impeccable success, and for these purposes they have a folder called in most cases as “Spam” or “Spam”.

In these folders it is where the mail cataloged by the service as Spam is arranged, waiting for the user to determine if it really is and opt for the corresponding action, that is, to mark the email classified as Spam as a valid email or delete it permanently of the system.

It is also possible to install a spam filter on our own computer. Some mail management programs such as “Thunderbird”, “Kmail” or “Outlook” allow the installation of these spam filters to protect us even more from this constant aggression.

Do not fall into the trap of e-mail chains: Never send an e-mail stating that you are able to help generate benefits for a particular cause depending on the number of people who receive the message. 

These “e-mail chains”, full of dramatic situations and that often use even photos of children, are generally false and help cybercriminals to obtain e-mail addresses for spam.

Check the privacy policies of the sites carefully: If you are buying an online product or hiring a certain service, look carefully at the company’s privacy policy before providing your e-mail address or any other confidential information. 

The first thing we should do is ask ourselves, how does this site use our private information? What restrictions do you have on the distribution and use of particular information within the internal environment and towards other companies? 

In the case that we are enrolling in any e-mail list, we must check if the company has any type of open policy on spam or e-mails.

Do not send or quote e-mail from family and friends: Serious brands that respect the consumer use the Internet to build relationships and transmit their benefits in the best way possible and not to bombard the public with irrelevant messages. 

If we do not trust or trust the company that requests our email, it is best not to provide it.

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