Why You Get Spam And What You Can Do To Stop It
Spammers operate on the principle that the more emails they send, the more money they make. The numbers do not sound like a good business model — they may need to send millions of emails to trigger a few hundred sales. But since spam is sent by infected PCs (“bots” or “zombies”), and use badly-configured email servers to route it on, the infrastructure and incremental cost is very low if not zero. All a spammer needs to do is infect machines to do the dirty work. They may not even have to spend money writing code — it's all on the 'net, for free. And if you want to be a spammer but don't have the technical expertise, you can hire armies of bots from hackers. (Recently the FBI arrested three “bot-herders”.)
Thus the spammers need to obtain as many email addresses as possible and they have a number of techniques. The primary way is to use automated processes which “crawl” the world wide web to harvest addresses. They can detect addresses both as clickable hyperlinks and plain text, and can also see through some obfuscation schemes. Therefore the worst thing you can do is have your email address on your website. As our Great Spam Experiment shows, it doesn't take long to score a hit, and as the addresses are traded with other spammers the volume only increases.
Some email addresses end up on the web through other means. Vendors, associations and others may publish your email address without your knowledge. There are a vast number of online directories that do this also. So even if you've been careful with your own website, you'll get spam anyway.
Spammers will also send email to fake aliases on domain names. Domain names are in a public database (the world-wide domain name system), so if you create a brand-new domain name it will not be long before you start to receive spam addressed to <random>@<domain>. This is because many hosting providers have a catch-all or stray mail mailbox which delivers the badly-addressed email.
Finally, if someone you know is infected by a virus, trojan, backdoor etc, it may harvest their address book. You may have the most secret email address in the world but you won't be safe if someone you know is careless about their own security.
So, what can be done about it? There are two broad approaches: prevent it in the first place, and manage it when you start getting it.
To Prevent Spam
To Manage Spam
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