Spam hardly needs an introduction or a definition. Even the most nontechnical person on the street will know exactly what you're referring to when you mention spam. If you have an e-mail address See Internet address.
e-mail address - electronic mail address , the odds are massively in the spammers' favor that they've found you and unpleasantly surprised you with offers of drugs, women, and buried fortunes. The most basic definition of spam is unsolicited e-mail -- any e-mail sent to you that you did not request. This is deliberately a very broad definition, especially because spam is now a legal term!
As you've probably experienced, spammers send huge amounts of identical e-mails to as many e-mail addresses as they can. The reason for this is economies of scale. A spammer can usually expect less than 0.5 percent of the e-mails they send to be opened, regardless of whether they're read or acted on. For reasons covered later in this lesson, if an e-mail is simply opened, it's considered a positive response. Therefore, the more they send, the higher the amount of positive responses the spammers can generate.
Basic spam -- the type that simply offers you products and services from a usually reputable retailer -- is little more than annoying. Although larger companies (and those with common sense) have realized that sending spam can quickly alienate potential customers, a significant proportion of companies continue to do so. A fair number of the culprits are those advertising free services (O.Eng. Law) such feudal services as were not unbecoming the character of a soldier or a freemen to perform; as, to serve under his lord in war, to pay a sum of money, etc.
See also: Free , such as free online dating, free classified advertisement listings, and free small business directory entries. Because these companies are little more than legal shells, they have little to lose and lots to gain by spamming their wares.
Spam has implications far beyond being annoying. Studies show that spam makes up 60 percent of all email traffic. That's an astonishing a·ston·ish
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise. volume; spam on its own accounts for more data than all of the Web browsing, FTP FTP
in full file transfer protocol
Internet protocol that allows a computer to send files to or receive files from another computer. Like many Internet resources, FTP works by means of a client-server architecture; the user runs client software to connect to file downloading, P2P See peer-to-peer and point-to-point. file sharing Copying files from one computer to another. See peer-to-peer network, file sharing protocol and file and printer sharing. , and all other Internet services combined. This huge volume of data clogs the available bandwidth on which the Internet runs, making everything else run much slower. The Internet as a whole would be noticeably faster if spam was eradicated right now.
Most concerning is the increasing trend of malicious spam. Customers of almost every major international bank have been targeted by phishing scams of varying sophistication so·phis·ti·cate
v. so·phis·ti·cat·ed, so·phis·ti·cat·ing, so·phis·ti·cates
1. To cause to become less natural, especially to make less naive and more worldly.
2. . Phishing is the term given to a specific type of spam that attempts to fool people into supplying confidential information Noun 1. confidential information - an indication of potential opportunity; "he got a tip on the stock market"; "a good lead for a job"
steer, tip, wind, hint, lead -- the spammers are effectively "fishing" for whatever information they can find.
If you've had an e-mail address for any length of time, you no doubt noticed a gradual increase in the amount of spam you receive (if not, you're one of the lucky ones!). And if you were unlucky enough to accidentally open spam e-mail, you may have noticed it was quickly followed by more spam. It's no coincidence -- spammers use clever tracking mechanisms to monitor whether their e-mail is deleted, opened, or even forwarded to another person.
The most obvious and basic tracking mechanism is a read receipt. A read receipt is a flag in the e-mail header (1) The text at the beginning of an Internet e-mail message. It is generated by the client mail program that first sends it and by all the mail servers en route to the destination. that tells your e-mail client Same as e-mail program. to return the status of the e-mail to its sender. Through this system, the spammer can obtain basic information about whether you read or deleted the e-mail. Every popular e-mail client (such as Outlook or The Bat) has an option to deny read receipts for public e-mail received from the Internet. If you use a corporate e-mail system, such as Microsoft Exchange Messaging and groupware software for Windows from Microsoft. Exchange Server is an Internet-compliant e-mail system that runs under Windows NT/2000 and Windows Server 2003. It can be accessed by Web browsers, the Exchange client, versions of Outlook and the earlier Windows Inbox. , the system administrator usually has the ability to force your e-mail client to return read receipts -- so beware!
A more sophisticated tracking system is achieved through Web bugs. As you may know, adware systems can be used to track your Web browsing and application usage habits. The same principle applies to e-mail. Using HTML e-mail An e-mail message formatted as a Web page (HTML document). Like a Web page, it can include different fonts and graphics, which regular text e-mail does not support. It enables the publishing of fancy newsletters and reports as well as elaborate advertising, all of which is sent as an , a spammer can include a reference to a script on its server that's executed every time the e-mail is opened and the content is loaded. To achieve this, a single pixel, transparent GIF image is included in the e-mail. This GIF GIF
in full Graphics Interchange Format
Standard computer file format for graphic images. GIF files use data compression to reduce the file size. The original version of the format was developed by CompuServe in 1987. is invisible to the reader, but essential to the tracking system. When your e-mail client loads the image, the tracking script on the spammer's server is executed, completing the vicious cycle. This is the reason you should never open an e-mail you have good reason to believe is spam.
Unfortunately, spam is something that will never stop. Companies and individual spammers make huge amounts of money by selling valid e-mail addresses to one another. Once a spammer gets a positive response, they can sell that e-mail address to other spammers as part of a validated e-mail list. Once your address is on one of these lists, it's impossible to remove it. As you may already know, clicking a link in the e-mail that purports to remove you from the spammer's list is a surefire way to receive even more spam.