Sunday, January 6, 2008

Who Wants SPAM

No this is not the tinned meat variety that World War II veterans have grown to love, but the electronic/digital alter ego of the junk mail that litters our household mail- boxes.

By: Vanessa Uy

Even after 7 years into the 21st Century, fistfuls of junk mail are still being sent to our household mail- box. They are about credit card application offers, Publisher’s Clearinghouse type sweepstakes, and the most hackneyed of all is the “You may have already won millions of dollars!” type of junk mail. My eight- month- old e-mail account so far has been spared by the brunt of SPAM, the junk mail’s supposedly more evil digital twin brother. Is my on line life a charmed one? It’s still too soon to tell.

Calling SPAM as an e-mail version of junk mail is probably apt a few years ago but now, they had evolved into something that could seriously inconvenience our enjoyment of the technological fruits of the worldwide web. Traditional guises of SPAM are: An exiled Nigerian businessman who needs your help “unfreezing” his bank account. The improbable low cost surgical phallic enhancement. Viagra or other sidefil type drugs. These are the most common forms of SPAM that litter the inboxes of millions of e-mail accounts around the world, especially those that are active for more than three years according to BBC’s Click – a weekly program on what’s new on computers and computer related developments. More recently, creators of SPAM e-mails had “hijacked” important and or legitimate topics like an effective acne cure targeted at teenagers. This “show of desperation” could work because topics about acne are a “link bomb” to complexion conscious teens. Despite of this, should we be afraid of SPAM?

The truth is we should be especially those of the latest incarnation of SPAM e-mails. Pump and dump SPAM advertised stocks reaching your inboxes are more likely to be riddled with “malware.” Thankfully, our fears can be dealt with in a rational manner. An effective course of action would be is when you receive a suspected SPAM e-mail on your inbox is never ever click it. Clicking SPAM e-mails is like triggering an anti-personnel mine; the results are devastating especially to your e-mail account. If you are “unlucky” enough to have clicked the latest generation of SPAM e-mails, it takes over your e-mail account to send more of itself around like a virus. The latest generation of über-SPAM can access e-mail accounts by brute force methods. So as a precaution, don’t click or double click suspected SPAM messages.

For further protection, you can always download open-source/free anti SPAM software on the internet. Most of the existing anti SPAM software is distributed on-line for free by software companies. Just make sure the software / operating system you are using to run your computer – or the one in use in the internet café - are genuine. Company provided open source software doesn’t work with their pirated counterparts. Current SPAM filters in use is still effective for most of the existing SPAM variants out there, but they need constant revamp due to the constantly evolving nature of the SPAM threat. To me, SPAM is just one of the unfortunate by-products of the relatively lawless nature of the worldwide web and should be treated as such.

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