On Spam: The Danger and the Delicacy

Spam is a delicious meat-like-product found at most grocery stores. It may or not be healthy, and it may or may not be meat, but it is nonetheless tasty. Spam, sometimes called “Hawaiian Steak,” is part of many Hawaiian meals. It's been popular in the islands for decades.

Spam is also the name we’ve given a nasty category of email. This is email you didn’t ask for, meant to manipulate you into taking an action that is bad for you and good for the sender. The troubles of spam often start with the content of the message itself and get worse if you interact with it.

While anti-spam laws now exist, these mainly reduce dirty marketing practices by legitimate companies. There is another kind of illegal spam that is both more persistent and more harmful.

If you’ve ever received a message offering you free money from an estranged African prince, you’ve seen this. If you’ve ever received an unsolicited message offering you pornography, pharmaceuticals, or even a date, you’ve seen this.

At the very least, content in these messages may be offensive. If you just delete those emails based on the subject lines, you’re not the intended audience. They’re intended to catch the attention of people who don’t recognize them for the traps they are and/or are prone to click obscene content.

Still other messages trick job seekers, employees, service providers, entrepreneurs, etc... into clicking links or attachments that seem important or useful. These will ask clickers for information and/or put viruses on their computers. This is always the first part of a strategy to access an organization’s networks to infect it and/or steal information. Then, the hackers use the network to perform bot-attacks, steal identities, or even lock organization members out of the network until they pay a ransom.

You would think that we’d be getting wise to the practices of people trying to snag us with spam. Believe it or not, the numbers of malicious messages that get opened is actually rising. As we get more savvy, so do Spam senders. Plus, the statistics are against us because of the sheer number of spam messages sent. Of the roughly 269 billion email messages sent per day, around half can be considered spam, and approximately 2.3 percent (that’s close to 6.2 billion) contain malicious attachments.

So, what can we do?

It’s easy to say that we should be vigilant, and we should. If you don’t know the person that sent you an email, don’t open links or attachments from them—even if they contacted you through a means you might otherwise trust. Job seeker websites, for instance, may connect you to a third party that you don’t know and who may then send you links or software meant to set you up for harm.

Probably the best place to begin, though, is with a good spam filter working against the barrage of spam. There are many good products that do this. They look for a variety of markers for bad email and set them aside (IP addresses known for spam and malware, content offering you free money from deposed princes, certain types of links or attachments, etc...). Depending on the risk, a filter program will delay and mark suspicious messages and quarantine more dangerous ones. You can always go through the quarantine folder to be sure you didn't miss something important.

Usually it's safe to assume that any email from a source you don't recognize is a bad one.

We at iRapture use the intelligent Spam Filter Heluna. It’s a low-maintenance, proactive email filtering solution that does not require you to spend time second guessing it or learning to use it. It just works in the background, protecting you, your employees, and your clients.

Would you like to know more about Heluna? Give us a call, or send us a message. We'd love to help keep your computers safe.