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Dealing with Spam and Email Privacy

Are you fed up with tons of spam mails in your mailbox? Do you feel uncomfortable with exposing your personal email address to everyone? There is no single best solution to these issues but several clever strategies exist that let you continue to use email as a reliable and effective means of communication, while minimizing time and efforts for dealing with these dark sides of the internet community.

email_65x65When it comes to fighting spam, there are two different approaches that should be both considered and applied: Spam prevention and filtering. Spam prevention means avoiding that your email address gets into the wrong hands. Obviously,  entering an email address into dubious mp3, pornographic or freebie sites is the most efficient recipe for getting spammed.

Spammers also routinely harvest the internet for websites with embedded email addresses, so you might want to be cautions to publish them. If you run a business, however, your website should be optimized to attract customers and make it easy to contact you. Hiding or obstructing an [email protected] address would not only be foolish, it signals to your customers that you care less for them than for the convenience of your internal mail handling. It clearly is your very business to deal with the bulk of incoming emails, not that of your website visitors! Contrary to widely publicized advice, the method of hiding the global business mail address is quite useless anyway, since it is naive to believe that a professional spammer wouldn’t routinely guess and try “info” as a valid email address of your internet domain. If you still don’t believe this fact, consider our observation that after deliberately publishing our “info” address on numerous websites and directories for several years, we now receive about 10 spam mails every day, which can be easily dealt with within a matter of seconds. It seems that “info” addresses is not very attractive to spammers, it’s personal addresses that they are after!

These personal email addresses should indeed never be publicized anywhere. Check with Google regularly that your email address is indeed nowhere to be found. If it is, and you are unable to get it removed, consider changing it.

Spam Filtering works by trying to automatically differentiate between good and bad emails. The sender email addresses shown cannot be used to identify spam mails, because they are most likely faked. Using keywords in the subject line or message body can be used, but this is not very effective because they change too fast to be detected and because trojans may just duplicate real subject fields from real emails that they find on infected PCs. Other methods include banning sender IP addresses completely (which is effective at least against open relays or dedicated spam server farms but not against large email hosters, like yahoo, hotmail or gmail), some form of advanced sender verification (not yet widely implemented), or semi-automatic methods, where you sort out unwanted mails manually and your email client tries to learn your personal spam pattern

Obviously, neither of these methods can be 100% effective, not even if you combine them, and as anti-spam technologies advances, so will spamming tricks. Even worse, these filtering methods will not only fail to recognize some spam mails, they even tend to flush non-spam mails at times. Just imagine what it can cost you or your business if your spam protection system flushes even one single top priority email!

Today, many websites require you to leave an email address before they allow you to download things or enter protected areas. It is a good idea to have secondary email addresses just for the purpose of giving them to websites that you don’t trust 100%.

After creating multiple email addresses, you will soon discover that managing them can be far more time consuming and cumbersome than anticipated. Can you really be sure that all messages for your additional identities can be safely ignored? Since many websites are trying to confirm the existence of an email address by requiring you to respond to a confirmation mail sent to the given address, you will end up wading through tons of spam just to find the confirmation mail. It becomes obvious that multiple email addresses can help in managing spam but they are no real solution either because they only move spam from one account to another.

Part 2: Disposable email addresses >>


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