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As we grow from infants, through childhood and into adults, there are some
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This isn't one of them
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How Spam Could Kill Your Mailbox
Most people are annoyed by the constant stream of spam that clutters up
their mailbox and wastes their time.
For most of us however, these unwanted intrusions into our daily online
activities are really little more than a minor inconvenience -- but sometimes
spam can have a devastating effect on Net users.
I'm talking about the case when a spammer chooses YOUR email address to use
as the "from" address in one of their spam-runs.
Unfortunately, as the number valid email addresses on the web continues to
grow, the problem is actually becoming quite commonplace.
one poor sod
who talked about such an experience in the nz.general newsgroup.
Last week it also happened to my YahooMail account.
When I logged in to check my mail, I discovered that instead of the two or three
unread messages I normally find, my mailbox was filled to its 6MB limit and
contained thousands of unread messages.
Closer investigation revealed that all of those messages were bounced spams
promoting an online casino in Costa Rica.
Unfortunately, YahooMail offers no "bulk delete" capabilities -- so clearing
the mailbox requires marking each message individually and deleting them.
When I started to do this I soon found that the bounces were still flooding
in faster than I could click -- so I gave up.
Since this YahooMail account is just a backup I use whenever I have to
submit an email address to someone or some site that might be tempted
to spam me, its loss wasn't such a big deal -- but imagine the effect if this
were a small business's main email account?
What happens to Bob's business when a spammer uses firstname.lastname@example.org as the
"from" address on a message that is then sent to millions of mailboxes
across the globe. The tens of thousands of bounces that come back
from invalid addresses will knock poor old Bob's mailbox off the Net in
next to no time.
If Bob is smart enough, he'll contact his ISP and ask them to try and filter
these bounces out -- but that might not be as simple as it sounds and it will
likely cost Bob money.
Then there's the problem of the thousands of bounces already sitting in the
mailbox -- they'll
have to be cleared. However, since much of Bob's business is done by email
and he prides himself on always responding in a timely manner to inquiries,
extreme care will have to be taken to ensure that genuine emails are not
accidentally wiped along with all the spam-fallout.
If Bob's business were significantly Net-based then he'd have a real problem.
Of course he could change his email address -- but that involves contacting
all his existing customers, changing any printed material he might have, and
possibly missing out on very important future communications from people who
aren't aware of the change.
So what can be done to avoid this situation?
Well, if you have your own domain, make sure that you don't accept all email
addressed to that domain. A lot of people have a mailbox that will accept
anything addressed to that domain -- this means that all a spammer has to do
is use any address @yourdomainname and you'll get flooded.
If losing access to your email or having to wade through thousands of bounces
would represent a major problem to your business then talk to your ISP
NOW and ask them what provisions they have in place to manage such a situation
should it occur.
Always have a backup email address (preferably using a different
domain name) so that if your main mailbox does get
flooded, you can still stay in touch with important customers or friends.
Once again let me say: I think it's time that governments around the world put
some serious effort into drafting up an international treaty to stamp out spam.
After all, they seem to have done a very good job with copyright and
trademark laws -- so why not anti-spam laws?
Maybe governments would wake up and take notice if it were pointed out that
this type of denail of service attack could be used by terrorists or foreign
powers to knock out the mailboxes of major businesses or even government
Even the simplest of the evil sods out there could use a piece of off-the-shelf
spamware in conjunction with a program that creates millions of fake email
addresses to perform such an attack. Under current laws, they'd could simply
claim that they not launching a denial of service attack, just engaging
in some "harmless" (and in most parts of the world -- quite legal) spamming.
Wake up George W, Helen Clark, Tony Blair and others. Will your mailbox be
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