Spam - The Scourge of the Internet

Summer 2003 CSANews Issue 47  |  Posted date : Apr 20, 2007.Back to list

In the earlier BC (Before Computers) years, "spam" was an off-the-shelf, canned meat of mystery. Hardly anyone I grew up with ate it, or at least admitted to eating it, but everyone admitted to having at least one can in their cupboards. We didn't have pantries in those days. I probably would have said that this was a mispronunciation of a woman's garment.

Spam has, by today's standards, evolved from "some kind of meat" that no one wants, to an endless supply of e-mail that, you guessed it, no one wants. A few years back, turning on your computer brought a smile to your face and warmth in your heart when you viewed the sender names of your e-mail messages. Time has changed, and spam has evolved into the scourge that befalls us when we view our e-mail messages.

First, the definition of spam – any message or posting, regardless of its content, that is sent to multiple recipients who have not specifically requested the mail.

Make spam decisions as you would any other life choices. You can opt to do something, or you can opt to do nothing. I may be plagiarizing Confucius with that one, but it does hold true for spam. As for your choice to do nothing...

Never respond to unsolicited e-mail/spam. To the individuals who send spam, one "hit" among thousands of mailings is enough to justify the practice.

Never respond to the spam e-mail's instructions to reply with the word "remove." This is a ploy to get you to react to the e-mail - it alerts the sender that a human is at your address, which greatly increases its value. If you reply, your address may be placed on more lists resulting in more spam.

Never sign up with sites that promise to remove your name from spam lists. Although some of these sites may be legitimate, more often than not, they are address collectors. The first kind of site is ignored (or exploited) by the spammers, the second is owned by them - in both cases, your address is recorded and valued more highly because you have just identified it as read by a human.

... The Three Nevers are Courtesy of Yahoo! Canada

For those of you who tackle problems head-on, your Internet providers are all introducing spam handling into their services. Today, they are becoming less and less patient with spammers. It generates too much unwanted activity on their service and, most important of all, it annoys customers like you and me. If you don't know how to handle spam with your service provider, send them an e-mail asking for instructions and they will/should provide you with a prompt response.

For AOL 8.0 users (no earlier versions), you can report spam e-mail to AOL by selecting the spam e-mail message and clicking the Report Spam button at the bottom of the page. They will be vigilant at pursuing reported spammers.

MSN (Hotmail) users have an option to block e-mail originating from specific senders or domains by checking the checkbox of the spam message and clicking the Block button. Blocking a sender is very effective against e-mail from a particular address, but it does not prevent you from receiving similarly unwanted messages from other addresses. Use the Junk Mail Filter to stop unwanted e-mail from reaching your Inbox.

Yahoo! Canada Mail (mail.yahoo.ca) offers its users SpamGuard, a patent-pending spam filtering technology. With SpamGuard users can report spam through the technology's "This is Spam" link. As well, SpamGuard's filtering technology automatically detects and directs spam into a separate folder, giving people the option and control to review all of their incoming e-mail. In addition to SpamGuard, Yahoo! Canada Mail offers other spam-fighting tools to further bolster protection against spam such as the ability to "block html graphics," protecting users from viewing images they may not want to see. Furthermore, people can block up to 100 addresses and set up 15 filters to customize protection against spam.

As e-mail continues to insinuate itself into our lives, we learn to accept its constant harassment of spam in the same ways we brush off annoyances in our everyday lives. You can't drive home during rush hour and expect smooth sailing. You can't eat dinner without at least two telemarketers interrupting. You can't walk into a department store and expect to find sales help and, my big one, you can't go to any Tim Horton's and expect them to have honey-dipped Timbits.

After all is said and done, we certainly have bigger fish to fry than e-mail spam. Just remember to exercise the Three Nevers, and report spam to your Internet provider.

For all the good which the Internet has given us, I for one am certainly happy to deal with the bad.