We use email every day we are online. We subscribe, we communicate with people, our first interactions with services start with providing our personal email during registration. This could not be ignored ever by all internet marketing masterminds, so we all are as well familiar with getting unwanted mail and what is called spam — let’s give this term a deeper definition and a hint of historical facts.
What Is Spam Email?
It is believed that the first non-paper spam mailing was received by subscribers of Western Union in 1864 after the company allowed mailing to large address lists. The dental clinic immediately took advantage of the opportunity, and unsolicited advertisements flew over the telegraph wires. But, surprisingly, there is still no unity in the interpretation of the slang word “spam”. All agree that it comes from the SPAM™ canned meat, produced by Hormel Foods Corporation. The company was the official supplier of the British army during the war and a member of the Lend-Lease. According to some sources, the abbreviation SPAM, which appeared in 1936, when Hormel Foods began to lose its popularity, comes from the English phrase Shoulder of Pork and hAM, according to others — from SPiced hAM, and a rumor deciphered this abbreviation as Something Posing As Meat. To get rid of canned goods left after the war, aggressive advertising was launched: the letters SPAM were everywhere, in store windows and on public transport, and became so annoying that the comedians from Monty Python took a sketch about them.
In the 25th issue of the famous show “Monty Python Flying Circus” (1969), the point of the sketch boiled down to the fact that in one cafe all meals contain SPAM in different varieties. The guest is outraged, and the choir of Vikings, sitting in the back, begins to sing “Spam, spam, spam! Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam!”, drowning out other conversations in the restaurant — this is how “Spam” began to be associated with redundant information that “jammed” useful messages.
The word “spam” was stuck behind unsolicited online advertising in 1986 thanks to the first-ever pyramid-based commercial mailing list under the general heading “make money fast”, which appeared in the harbinger of the Internet — the USENET network.
The New Oxford Dictionary of English added a second definition to its entry for “spam” in 1998: “Irrelevant or unsolicited messages sent over the internet, typically to a large number of users, for the purposes of advertising, phishing, spreading malware, etc.” Today the term “spam” has become widespread.
Most Popular Types of Spam Letter
What just does not come into our mailboxes. Unwanted job offers, winning promises and payments from unknown payment systems, warnings of having been sued or blocked. This happens to everyone — here are some of the most usual types of spam letters:
- Spam with malware
Especially dangerous are spam messages that contain malicious programs such as viruses, worms, or Trojans in attachments or in HTML code. Moreover, such software can also be used to connect your PC to a botnet designed to send spam. Another type of this is the advertising of illegal products. For example, pornography, illegal goods, drugs with restrictions, user databases, fake software.
Using phishing messages, spammers try to extract confidential information — bank account numbers and passwords — to use them in their machinations. Attackers use the names and logos of well-known companies, such as banks, as bait.
- Chain letters
Chain Letters are letters in which the user is asked to copy the letter and forward it to as many addresses as possible. Chain Letter usually begins by grabbing the user’s attention with phrases such as “don’t erase this letter, be sure to read it.” The longer the chain – the more real email-addresses spammers get into their malicious network!
- Letters of happiness
Such a letter promises the email user literally “all the blessings of the earth” — love, health, wealth. All that is needed for this is to forward the letter to other people. The more new letters are sent out, the more happiness you will receive. While such letters appear to be a gesture of good will, in reality, they can help spammers get not only more emails into their usage, but, when reaching someone’s work mailbox, also get a glimpse of an internal structure of the company. Not to mention they spot the most vulnerable and easiest to be manipulated workers. This was mostly used in the old days, as well as the so-called Nigerian letters that were not mentioned in this article.
- Opt-in letters
Opt-in is a type of commercial mailing for which the user must register, i.e. confirm your desire to participate in the mailing list and independently indicate your mailing address. Such mailing assumes the user’s voluntary participation and interest and gets spammers a place to send even more unwanted mail.
How to Stop Getting Spam Emails
- Firstly, never-ever leave your personal email on sites open to the public;
- When you register on the sites, be sure to read the license agreement, the conditions under which news will be sent are always spelled out. Do not forget to safely uncheck the box “I agree to receive newsletters” if you do not want spam;
- Never engage in dialogue with spammers. Never reply. If by all indications you see that the message is clearly spam, do not click and do not confirm unsubscribing from spam, otherwise, the robot will process your request and add your mailbox to the database;
- If annoying letters still arrive in your inbox, do not open them. All email services and email clients have a function for marking emails as spam;
- You can also mark unwanted messages as spam on social media and block them.
- Do not respond to letters like “Your account is blocked” or “money was debited from your account”. Do not follow the links in the letter. If in doubt, it is best to call your bank;
- Pay attention to the recipient’s address. Scammers do not send individual letters. The “To” box usually contains addresses other than yours.
How to Block an Email Address of Spammers?
If spam arrives by mail with such regularity and in such quantity, it means that it is profitable for someone. Scammers and spammers get our email addresses mostly from databases. A customer database of a company can be stolen or even sold by the company’s employees to spammers.
We know how tired you are of getting unwanted emails, so to get rid of spam mail, start by opening the messages of the sender you want to block. Click the down arrow in the upper right corner of the window. A dropdown menu will appear. Select the Block Sender option. A confirmation message is displayed indicating that subsequent messages from this sender will be marked as spam. All messages will be forwarded to the Spam folder. You can also use filters to send messages from a specific sender to a specific folder.
Is Opening a Spam Email Dangerous?
In general, nothing will happen if you mistakenly opened unwanted mail, but not always. If instead of immediately highlighting the letter and pressing the “spam” button, you opened it out of curiosity, the mailing service used by the spammer shows that the given email address opened the letter, so the spammer understands that this mailbox is active and hooks you up. That’s it, you are in the database.
Another danger of spam letters is those that consist of a hidden picture. Due to the peculiarities of the encoding, many mailers process the HTML-code of the letter. Therefore, an attacker can insert an image instead of text into the letter (it can also be transparent), and in fact, this is the same as clicking on a link. A simple opening of such a message means subscribing to spam mailing. So the best practice is to ignore unwanted letters and delete dangerous emails immediately. Spam usually does not harm your computer until you open a malicious file. But this does not mean that dangerous letters can be left in the mail. Immediately delete them, otherwise, there is a risk that you will then run the file accidentally. Also, take as a rule to not install unknown software as you risk downloading viruses. Do not open attachments from unknown senders.
How to Unsubscribe from Unwanted Emails?
Sometimes it can be hard to find subscription messages. This is because they can get lost in different folders and shortcuts. The easiest and fastest way to unsubscribe from lists and block unwanted emails is as follows: open your inbox, input “unsubscribe” into the search field. This will show all mails you get a subscribed user — in most messages, the unsubscribe link is at the bottom of the message. Click the unsubscribe link as soon as you find it and follow the instructions.
Some of the most popular user mailboxes, like Outlook, Yahoo and Gmail may contain an unsubscribe button. In this case, the mailbox will display an unsubscribe link at the top of the message, next to the sender’s address. Follow the prompts to confirm your decision.
How to Protect your E-mail from Spam Emails?
Here are some general guidelines for you no reduce the amount of spam or stop receiving it in your mailbox:
- When creating an email address, use names that are difficult to guess. Use letters and numbers. Your email is best to contain at least 7 characters;
- Start a trash email and register it on social networks or when subscribing to information materials;
- Backup your computer. To be able to return the information that was before the virus infection;
- And, of course, keep your antivirus software up to date.
We hope you are now more aware of what email spam is and how to get rid of it. It’s important to remind you that even when it appears to be just a waste of your time and space in the box, it might as well be dangerous. Think about it, it’s highly frustrating to lose an important letter in your inbox because of the extreme amount of spam there, as well as it’s impossible to not notice increased network load when working with your mailbox. Just use healthy precautions mentioned above and together with adherence to simple rules this will help you to protect yourself from the threats posed by spam, and significantly reduce its amount.