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 How Spammers Get Your Email Address

How Spammers Get Your Email Address

You've been careful not to give your email address to anyone except your friends and colleagues, but you still get spam. How did the spammers find you? Even the most well-guarded email addresses eventually become targets of spam. How? The answer explains why spam is an inevitable part of Internet life.

If an email address can send and receive messages, it can be detected as a target for spam. Spammers employ a variety of methods to discover valid email addresses, generally by using automated programs that search for addresses, test their validity, and quickly build a large database of targets for spam and phishing. Some of the most common methods include the following:

  • A directory harvest attack, also known as a dictionary attack, automatically submits a series of messages to a server using a long list of possible usernames, from (adam@replace-with-your-domain.com) to (zachary@replace-with-your-domain.com) and everything in between. Messages to invalid email addresses "bounce", or are rejected by the server. When the server accepts one of these messages, the spammer knows that the email address is valid and can be used for spam. This is a "brute force" attack that often succeeds when other methods fail.
  • A Web crawler automatically reads pages all over the Web, searching for published email addresses. These are often found in email discussion lists and newsgroups that are archived on the Web. If you participate in such a list, your email address may be published as part of the list's online archive.

  • An free online product or service is sometimes a front for email address harvesting. For example, if you sign up to receive daily jokes, quotes, or stock alerts, your email address may be collected by spammers or sold to spammers.

  • The WHOIS and DNS systems provide access to a database of Internet domains, their owners, and the owners' email addresses. If you register your own Internet domain, the associated email address becomes public and can be obtained by spammers. The domain can also be used as a target for a directory harvest attack. Implement Whois Protection

  • Many viruses are designed to scan your computer's hard drive for email addresses, then send them to spammers. A virus may also use your email account to send spam to your contacts.

  • A database that stores your email address could be hacked or leaked, revealing your address to spammers.

When an email address becomes known to one spammer, it's often sold or traded to other spammers. Once your email address is in the hands of spammers, it cannot be concealed from them again. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak.

Spam may be an inevitable part of Internet life, but it doesn't have to burden your mailbox. Subscribe to our Postini Mail Filtering for only 5cents a day per mail box. When Postini is enabeld, 99 percent of spam, phishing, and email-borne viruses are intercepted before they arrive in your mail box, usually before you even notice them. And although a few spammers will always find your email address, you can take some simple steps to reduce access to it:

  • Carefully read the Terms of Service for any online service before you sign up. If no formal promise of privacy is offered, be suspicious.

  • When signing up for a service or making a purchase, look for pre-checked checkboxes that state that you agree to receive email. Uncheck these boxes wherever you find them.

  • Create a separate email address that you use exclusively for "public" activities such as online discussions, purchases, and memberships. Keep another email address that you use exclusively for private correspondence with family and friends.

  • If you operate a Web site, use a contact form instead of publishing your email address.

  • Encode your email addresses including the FormMail Contact.

  • Use Form Maker Pro and use the captcha image feature. We can install Form Maker Pro for a one time fee of $19.95. You can use it to create all your forms.

Article Details
Article ID: 161
Created On: 17 Sep 2008 11:13 AM

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