By Michael Rau
October 8, 2007
Poor spammers What are they gonna do now?
I ask this because they've lost me as a major spam recipient.
Those of you who've been reading this column for a while know that I consider malware to be the scourge of the wired world, and that I've been waging an ongoing battle against spam and its purveyors for many years.
I reached a peak six months or so ago of receiving about 5,000 pieces of spam a day. It had transcended the ridiculous, reaching the level of the sublime.
Then, a miracle occurred.
One of my Web clients decided to change the name of their organization. This precipitated the acquisition of a new URL and setting up a new email account. Once the change took place and I closed out the old account, my spam traffic was cut by a third.
So I got to thinking - what if I was to slightly change the URL of my major site - the one that gets most of this effluent.
It worked! I created a sub-domain (this is what you're looking at when you go to a Website with a 3 part URL such as the one I use to archive my columns at dailypress.asoundidea.com) and pointed all my emailers to this.
I have been spam-free ever since.
I resent that I had to make this effort at all and I don't expect this to last indefinitely. The creeps who send this stuff out are smart, resourceful, and absolutely lacking in conscience. Sooner or later, some spambot (a small program that constantly searches the Web for vulnerable sites) will figure out the new address and they'll start coming in again. Until then, I'll greatly enjoy the fact that my daily workload is greatly reduced.
In the meantime, because I started taking steps a long time ago to reduce the elements in my Websites that create exposure to spambots, I don't expect to ever have that much spam again.
I mention all of this because it's National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and you too should be taking steps to protect yourselves.
In conjunction with this event, the National Cyber Security Alliance and security software provider McAfee released a survey which showed that most Americans think their systems and networks are much more secure than they actually are.
The most telling data in this survey revealed that our systems are so insecure mostly because the majority of respondents mistakenly thought they'd already done enough.
More than ever, spammers are using so-called zombie programs to infect remote computers and turn them into spam zombies. This means that, if your Windows computer is subverted by one of these, it will turn it into a spam machine and can then be used to crank out spam emails by the thousands.
As I've reported before, over 90% of email traffic is now spam. That's literally billions of pieces of trash every day.
And the report also revealed how far we all have to go in terms of understanding online security:
* One in four respondents (25 percent) had never heard of the term phishing and nearly half (46 percent) could not accurately define phishing
* While four out of five online experiences begin with a search engine, 78 percent do not know how to evaluate the safety of Web sites found through an online search, despite the fact that free tools are available that rate the relative safety of search results
* While 98 percent of respondents say it is important to know whether a Web site is safe before visiting it, 64 percent had no idea how to determine whether a Web site is safe
The National Cyber Security Alliance is a good source for information on how to protect your computer system from malware. Their Website is: http://www.staysafeonline.org/ .
Please - for the sake of everyone connected in the wired world - take the steps necessary to protect yourself. It's the responsible way to be a cyber-citizen.
And on a related note, I reported many months ago about the conviction of a guy named Jeremy Jaynes - the man labeled by many as the world's most notorious spammer.
Jaynes and his attorneys have argued that his spamming activities are a free-speech right, while prosecutors argued that it amounts to trespassing and invasion of privacy (amen to that). Prosecutors also rightly pointed out that Jaynes used aliases and other methods to illegally mask the source of the spam emails.
Well, Jaynes was sentenced to nine years in prison (I think he should also be required to hand write an apology note to each and every person he sent spam to, before he's granted freedom).
I find great satisfaction in the fact that he lost his initial appeal. The Virginia Supreme Court will conduct a final review of the case in November.
Now if they'd only go after the dozens more major spammers out there as I'm sure everyone would appreciate the same sense of relief I'm currently feeling from the absence of spam in my life.
Michael Rau is a mass-communications consultant in Virginia Beach. To send feedback or view past columns, go to http://dailypress.asoundidea.com.
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