Monday, September 24, 2007

Tech Tip 9/24 - preventing spam

Since I have joined the 207 family I receive about 10 emails a week from staff members concerned about the amount of SPAM they receive. I would like to take a moment to explain the reasons why spam gets through, ways you can prevent it, and what we are doing to combat it.
What is SPAM?
  • A spicy canned meat...I mean - a Monty Python sketch...I mean - - Electronic SPAM - is defined as mail that is unsolicited and bulk.
  • It can come in many forms and include text, attachments, or photos
  • Up to 80% of all email sent each day is SPAM and spam involving images is on the rise. Up to 50% of all SPAM sent each day is in the form of image files. Spam as pdf's is the new trend with up to 8% of all daily SPAM as pdf files. The #1 type of SPAM is greeting card SPAM.
How do they get my email address?
The most common way is from posting it on message boards, using it to make purchases, or posting it on websites. The less often you use your school email for these purposes the less likely you are to get spam. Also, do not click on the spot in an email that says "click here to unsubscribe" this just confirms that you have an active email address and the messages can start pouring in.
How does it get through?
We use the top SPAM filter on the market, a barracuda spam filter. There are still ways to sneak by it. All spam filters sort by text. There are certain words that when are used in an email mean something to us, but are innocent to a computer. Also, spammers try to trick the spam filter. "There are millions of ways to write a word using punctuation, numbers, and other symbols. One mathematically minded blogger who looked into it found that there are 600,426,974,379,824,381,952 ways to spell Viagra" (newyorker.com). Pictures are not text, so they can get through easier - the same thing applies to pdfs.
What can you do to prevent it:
  • Don't post your email anywhere it isn't necessary
  • Use a personal free email account for purchases and sites like ebay. This is a list of free email providers: http://webpages.maine207.org/district/websupport/Portal/top10.pdf
  • Don't open suspicions emails and never click on a link you don't know where it is going to.
  • Be wary of online greeting cards
  • Never open an attachment from someone you don't know
  • Don't buy from spam or forward it on to others
  • Don't unsubscribe using links in a spammer's email
What is the tech staff doing to prevent it?
Our tech staff members have been attending seminars to become better at teaching our spam filter to block the spam we are getting. This is a never ending battle. Over 90% of the emails that arrive in the district is spam. For every 100 legitimate emails you receive over 900 are blocked. We are also going to be introducing a new way of listing emails on pages so that they cannot be stolen off of them.
I hope this gives you an idea of why and how spam gets through.
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