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Part I: The World of Spam.
Chapter 1: How Spam Works — and Drives You Crazy!
Chapter 2: How Spammers Get Your Address.
Chapter 3: There Oughtta Be a Law Against Spam!
Chapter 4: Talk to the Hand ’Cuz the Spammer Don’t Care.
Part II: Filtering Spam Out of Your Inbox.
Chapter 5: Mailbox Filtering in Your E-Mail Program.
Chapter 6: Filtering Spam in Outlook Express and Outlook.
Chapter 7: Filtering Spam in Netscape and Mozilla Mail.
Chapter 8: Filtering Spam in Eudora.
Chapter 9: Filtering Spam in AOL and AOL Communicator.
Chapter 10: Filtering Spam in Hotmail, MSN, and Yahoo! Mail.
Part III: Spam-Filtering Programs and Services.
Chapter 11: A Round-Up of Desktop Antispam Programs.
Chapter 12: Antispam Services for Just Plain Folks.
Chapter 13: Server-Side Spam Filtering for Network Administrators.
Part IV: The Part of Tens.
Chapter 14: Ten Spam Scams.
Chapter 15: Ten Internet Annoyances and How to Get Rid of Them.
In This Chapter
* How it came to be called spam
* The economics of the spam business
* Why spam is so hard to stop
* An overview of spam-fighting tactics
Quick! It's word-association time! When you hear the word spam, which one do you think of:
a. A salty, pink lunch meat that comes in a blue can?
b. A goofy British comedy troupe's skit with singing Viking warriors? c. Annoying junk mail and other advertisements you never asked for that are sent to you via the Internet?
d. All of the above.
The best answer is
d. All of the above.
As most people know, SPAM (with all capital letters) is a salty, pink lunch meat that is made by Hormel and comes in a blue can.
Hormel, the makers of SPAM (the lunch meat), say that if you want to call junk e-mail by the same name, they don't object. You just can't use all capital letters, like they appear on the can. SPAM is lunch meat, and spam is junk e-mail. Got it? We're talking about spam written with lowercase letters (at the request of Hormel) so that people don't confuse the spam we all hate for the SPAM that some people find tasty.
Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam
Avid fans of the British comedy team Monty Python may remember the skit where a husband and wife enter a restaurant in a seaside resort town only to find that every dish on the menu features SPAM. Unfortunately, the wife is not at all fond of SPAM and searches in vain for dishes that don't have any of the noxious substance. With SPAM appearing everywhere she turns, her frustration grows.
We're not sure why, but the skit also features a large band of Viking warriors lunching at the dinette who, every time the wife says the meat's name aloud, regularly break into a deafening song about "SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, Lovely SPAM! Wonderful SPAM!" - adding to her confusion and anger. (For true fans of Monty Python, however, singing Vikings at a seaside dinette are par for the course.)
Everyone who uses the Internet has encountered loads and loads of junk advertisements that appear when you least expect them and usually where they're least wanted - namely, in your e-mail inbox and on the message boards and newsgroups you frequent.
Legend has it that someone casting his eye over a menu of newsgroup discussion topics kept seeing the same ads posted in nearly every conversation thread. The continual appearance of these ads in every discussion group reminded this person of Monty Python's seaside café with SPAM appearing in every menu item and conversation being drowned out by the ceaseless monotony of Viking-like advertisers.
In the Monty Python sketch, the distraught SPAM-hating wife finally snaps and screams "I don't like SPAM!!!" If you're like us, you have spent enough time sorting through the junk e-mail in your inbox that you too have found yourself screaming about spam.
Why Spam Works
Anyone who has ever sent an e-mail message knows that it's a quick, simple, and cheap process. After you have a computer and an Internet connection, your investment is finished. To send an e-mail, you don't have to worry about buying envelopes or stamps. You just have to have an e-mail address for somebody, and something to say.
This same economic reality is what spammers depend on. Sending e-mail in bulk costs the sender a tiny fraction of the cost of sending postal mail or making telemarketing phone calls. One person can generate huge volumes of mail with just a few clicks of a mouse, blanketing millions of inboxes in a matter of minutes or hours.
The economics of spam
The economics of e-mail turn all the traditional notions of advertising on their heads. No other advertising medium costs the recipient more than it costs the sender of the ad.
With television, print ads in newspapers, or advertisements via the U.S. Postal Service, the sender has to spend a bundle on printing or other preparation of the ad, delivery, and so forth. The high cost naturally forces advertisers to be a bit picky about how much advertising they send out, and to whom they send it, because each additional ad bears an incremental cost.
In the world of junk e-mail marketing, it costs no more to send the first e-mail than it does to send the ten millionth e-mail. No economic restriction keeps marketers from blasting their advertisements as widely and indiscriminately as possible. They don't even have an incentive to remove duplicate addresses from mailing lists. Why not? When advertisers pay nothing more for each additional message, any time spent on editing a mailing list is time wasted.
Why spam is a bigger problem than you think
We all get postal junk mail. That's an accepted fact of life, at least in the United States. You may wonder why spam is any different.
Spam is different from the junk mail that is mailed to your house or the telemarketing calls that interrupt your dinner, for one simple reason: The people who send you that junk mail and make those phone calls have to pay for the cost of doing so, and the price can be steep. Junk mail has to be written, designed, printed, and collated, and postage must be paid. Telemarketers must rent office space, hire staff members, install phones, and pay long-distance phone charges. We don't say this to defend them, but rather to draw a distinction between the costs that traditional marketers incur and the costs that a spammer doesn't incur.
When a spammer sends an ad for herbal Viagra or an XXX-rated Web site or canine harmonica lessons to millions of people over the Internet, she pays almost nothing because, as we all know, e-mail is virtually free to the party who is sending it. But someone has to bear the cost of distributing those millions of e-mails to recipients all over the globe - and therein lies the difference between online unsolicited advertising and offline unsolicited advertising.
There's no such thing as a free lunch, particularly on the Internet
If you're like most people, you pay an Internet service provider (ISP) to get access to the Internet. (Even if your company or school pays for your access, someone is paying for it.) E-mail is one of the services your ISP provides as part of its service to you. For most people, the costs of your e-mail service are simply bundled into your service package. In reality, these costs can form a significant part of your monthly bill (as much as $3 or $4 of a standard $19.95 charge).
It wasn't long ago that ISPs charged per message for Internet e-mail. In the early days (well, 1991, which was pretty early for lots of Internet users), the service provider Prodigy used to charge 25 cents per message!
Even now, users of "free" e-mail services, like Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, "pay" by being subjected to advertisements all over their mailboxes, and the advertisers pay to run the servers at those sites. What seems to be free is really just costs factored into your service, and the costs related to e-mail don't stop there.
Suppose that you have a friend in Timbuktu whom you love to hear from by e-mail. The data that makes up the e-mail from your friend leaves her computer and begins a wondrous journey though any number of computers and networks on its way to you. Presumably, your friend owns her computer, so the resources used to create the message are largely hers. After that e-mail leaves her computer, though, the entire rest of its journey is spent bouncing around servers and careening down transmission lines that belong to anybody other than her - unless, of course, she happens to personally own her own international fiber-optic network!
Considering that most of us don't have a spare data network lying around, when that e-mail is sent, you and your friend are both depending on every service provider and communications network between you and Timbuktu to let that e-mail pass through their networks. In this way, virtually every e-mail is, to one extent or another, sent "postage due," with the postage being paid by everybody along the way.
Spam is a bad deal for everybody (except the spammer)
If you think about it, sending bulk e-mail to millions of people is just as cheap for a spammer as it is for a faraway friend in Timbuktu, especially when it's compared to the cost of sending junk ads by postal mail or telemarketing. After all, a spammer has no printing costs, no stamps to buy, no phones to install, no telemarketers to hire, and no long-distance calls to pay for. Instead, a spammer sends hundreds or thousands of messages per hour for just a fraction of a penny per spam.
Just because a spammer doesn't pay much for sending his spam, though, doesn't mean that someone isn't paying - and you would never guess who's at the head of the list: you.
Just like a friend you may have in Timbuktu, when a spammer decides to send the latest get-rich-quick scheme to 25 million of his closest friends, he can get an account at a local ISP and begin sending mail. After those 25 million messages leave his computer, though, the vast majority of the "postage" for delivering his mail is paid for by the 25 million recipients, their ISPs, and all the other networks, servers, and ISPs in between.
The crushing volumes of spam cost Internet service providers (ISPs) huge amounts of money for all the servers and Internet connection capacity needed to receive, process, store, and deliver unwanted e-mail. Several major ISPs estimated that by the end of 2003, spam would comprise upward of 80 percent of their entire e-mail volume. Imagine if you had to have an 80 percent larger house because your in-laws kept coming to stay. That's a lot of money, not to mention the pain and suffering!
How big of a problem is spam? A study commissioned by the European parliament in 2001 discovered that spam costs about $9.4 billion each year - a huge bill that is being footed by everyone except the spammers themselves. And much more spam is flowing this year than in 2001.
Who Hath Spammed Thee? (The Spammer Food Chain)
To understand the problem of spam, it helps to know who is doing it and what they're advertising. Surveying the Internet, you can quickly see that almost no reputable marketers use spam to advertise goods and services. That doesn't mean that reputable companies don't sometimes send out e-mail that the recipients don't want or didn't expect. But few legitimate companies engage in the kinds of complex spamming campaigns that are responsible for most of what is filling your inbox.
To the contrary, the most commonly mailed spams advertise pyramid schemes, get-rich-quick and make-money-fast scams, phone-sex lines, pornographic Web sites, and quack medical products. Most ironically, vast quantities of spam advertise spamming software, spamming services, and lists of millions of e-mail addresses you can buy so that you too can become a spammer. We have even seen spam advertising antispam filters!
When we talk about spammers, we're really talking about at least three categories of people who may be responsible for putting a particular piece of spam in your inbox:
The first category is the advertiser. You can't have spam without somebody who wants to advertise something. They may be sophisticated technical experts who do their own spamming, or they may be computer illiterates who saw an advertisement and decided to hire a third party to send spam for them. Whoever they may be, they are generally the people responsible for whatever message is contained in the body of the spam, and generally the one to whom you make out the check when it's time to buy the miracle hair-growth and body-part enlargement product.
Spam service providers are people who have built up the hardware, software, and expertise needed to pump out a bazillion spam e-mails. According to many antispam experts, the great majority of the spam you receive comes from a relative handful of professional spam service providers. They advertise their services to the latest sucker - er, "distributor" - of the latest get-rich-quick scheme and charge them a few hundred bucks to send a few million spams. Even though the distributor may never make a penny from the spamming campaign, the spam service provider has made his money, and that's all he cares about.
Spam support services can include ISPs and Web site hosting services that take any customer, no matter what kind of criminal or fraudulent activity they're engaged in. These ISPs are often in areas of the world where the laws may be either different or nonexistent. China, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, and South Korea are among the leading countries where spam service providers have found ISPs willing to provide support services, just as long as the checks keep clearing.
Why "Just Hit the Delete Key!" Is No Answer
Although spammers love to say "Just hit the Delete key," it totally misses the point. By the time the spam hits the fan (well, when it hits all our mailboxes), so many costs have been incurred by so many people other than the spammer that it is either naïve or an utter act of denial to pretend that those costs can be undone with the pressing of one key.
Spam is about the numbers, so let's look at some numbers that show why hitting the Delete key isn't really a workable solution. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that the United States has approximately 25 million businesses. If only 1 percent of those 25 million decides to send you just one single unsolicited e-mail per year, you average 685 spams per day in your inbox. If it takes an average of 10 seconds per message to open a message, determine that it is spam, and hit Delete, you spend two hours per day disposing of e-mail you never asked to receive.
More Ways You Pay for Spam
For your Internet service provider (ISP), the costs associated with processing incoming e-mail are the same, whether or not it's e-mail that its customers want. The more e-mail your ISP processes, the higher those costs. As spam volumes increase, it begins to clog Internet bandwidth and begins to fill up the storage disks on your ISP's servers. Whenever you're trying to surf the Web, therefore, you're competing with spam for the use of your ISP's Internet connection, slowing you down when you're surfing.
With overworked servers receiving and storing spam for hundreds of thousands of users, your access to your own e-mail can also slow down. E-mail servers are powerful machines, capable of doing thousands of tasks per second, but even those big machines can get bogged down.
Excerpted from Fighting Spam For Dummies by John R. Levine Margaret Levine Young Ray Everett-Church Excerpted by permission.
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