Small Business Canada Magazine
by Tristan Goguen
Unsolicited emails that advertise everything
from university degrees to porn is filling up email inboxes.
Commonly known as spam, these emails are more than a nuisance.
It costs money and time to deal with. According to IDC’s
report, “Worldwide E-mail Usage Forecast, 2002-2006”,
spam accounts for approximately 30 percent of all traffic
flowing through the Internet.
Spam mail can be damaging to your business
in many different ways. Some spam mail contains viruses, which
can attack key critical business files or computer systems.
Others try to trick you and your employees into installing
keystroke capture programs (perhaps disguised as an “unsubscribe”
link) that allow a hacker to remotely monitor everything you
Most people delete spam as soon as they
see it in the inbox. But have you ever considered how much
time is spent each week cleaning out the inbox? Each employee
will have wasted 15 hours deleting e-mail in 2003 compared
to 2.2 hours in 2000 according to a Ferris Research report
“Spam Control: Problems and Opportunities”. This
will cost the average business $400 per in-box in lost productivity
Tips on Minimizing Spam
The best way to avoid spam is to not
be on a spam list. Here are ideas to make it harder for spammers
to find your business email address.
Do not post a text hyperlink to your
email address on your web site. Post it as a GIF or JPEG image.
Customers can read the address, but automated web-crawlers
that explore web sites to compile email lists will not detect
On your web site, use a form field that
does not display your email address, but allows a website
visitor to submit a message. Another option is to dedicate
one email address for website communications so only this
address is revealed. You will keep your personal addresses
from being exposed. Incoming mail to your public address can
be viewed separately from your main business email.
Use public and private email addresses.
Use generic free-emails such as Hotmail or Yahoo for contest
submissions, online registrations or posting to discussion
groups. You can abandon that address when spam becomes uncontrollable.
Give your private address only to legitimate contacts.
Never reply to spam, even to unsubscribe.
Doing so indicates your email address is valid.
Email programs with a preview capability
(such as Outlook’s preview pane) should be turned off.
You are actually “opening” the mail when it is
previewed. This can tip off the spammer that your address
works. There is also a chance a virus can be activated if
you preview an email.
A wide variety of anti-spam solutions
There are varieties of software and service
solutions available to reduce spam. Depending on how your
business uses email, some solutions will fit better than others.
Here are a few common anti-spam technologies used today.
White List Technology– A pre-authorized
address book maintained by the user. New email contacts that
arrive are flagged for your review, requiring permission to
be added to your list. Another variation is once the sender
sends an email to you, the sender receives a message with
an instruction to click a button to verify he or she is not
an automated mass-emailing program. Once on your list, email
exchanges flow naturally.
Black List Technology– A collection
of illegitimate email addresses, domain addresses and IP addresses
is created. Emails originating from these listed sources are
blocked. Spammers are constantly falsifying their sending
location so this technology may not be effective at blocking
the newest spam messages. Legitimate emails can accidentally
be blocked, including emails originating from entire countries
with high spam rates.
Content/Category Filters– These
filters use rules to process the email. It scans incoming
email for tip-off terms and words, unlikely return addresses,
unusual symbols, embedded graphics, and fraudulent routing
information. The filter calculates the violations and ranks
the email to determine if it receives a passing score, in
which case it will arrive at your inbox. A failing score sends
an email to a quarantine folder.
Key things to look for in an
Compatibility- Some anti-spam solutions
are not compatible with all email programs. Check carefully
for one that works with the variety of email programs being
used in your office.
Quarantine Area- This folder stores spam
so you can occasionally review to ensure your legitimate emails
did not get blocked. A medical/health-related professional
may find this feature important as words commonly filtered
pertain to names of drugs.
Effectiveness– Anti-spam solutions
do not all work the same. An effective anti-spam solution
will block almost all your spam with the exception of a few.
An effective solution will not block any legitimate emails.
Seamless Processing- Does the anti-spam
solution allow you to retrieve your email in the same manner
as you did before the installation? A good anti-spam solution
should not require you to perform extra steps to protect your
Ease of Use - Is the product easy to
install? Is it easy to use?
Tristan Goguen is President of Internet
Light and Power Inc., one of North America’s premier
Internet Service Providers. Tristan is proactively helping
businesses and individuals find ways to reduce spam. Contact
Tristan at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on his efforts
or visit www.ipermitmail.com.
PDF version of article