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Keep your e-mails safe

Find out how you can protect your mailbox from spam and phishing that can come in the form of garbled messages or text rendered in image files.
By JC Medina |

Given the popularity of e-mail, two serious threats to it have surfaced over the years: spamming and phishing. And whether you like it or not, they will soon be attacking your inbox.

Spamming refers to the act of sending out unsolicited commercial messages through such forms of electronic communication as instant messaging, e-mail, and even mobile phone calls. Phishing, on the other hand, is the sending of e-mail that attempts to trick the recipient into sharing credit card information and passwords by unknowingly providing links to fraudulent websites.

 

PROBLEM GETTING WORSE

The problem from these twin threats is getting worse. According to Postini, a US-based e-mail management company that gathers statistics from its users, one day alone can yield as many as 400 million spam messages. Indeed, spammers and phishers thrive on big numbers, and the more e-mail they send, the greater the chances of their duping someone into buying something worthless or nonexistent or giving sensitive information.



Based on the information that Postini shares on its website, the volume of spam continues to increase month after month. The cross-industry consortium Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), on the other hand, reports that spam activity becomes even more widespread during the holiday season.



Because of the sheer volume of spam, the amount of productive time it takes to combat it is taking its toll on companies. More and more, employees are spending a great deal of time deleting and processing messages—time that could be used for more productive pursuits.

Phishing can also seriously compromise an organization’s IT capability because the activity consumes network resources, exposes computers to malicious websites, and needlessly takes up valuable storage space. And when phishing entities manage to get hold of passwords and sensitive information, the financial and logistics implications to the organization will be even worse and much more costly.

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RESILIENT THREATS

Their resiliency is a key characteristic of spamming and phishing. They have engaged data-security companies in a wild goose chase through the years and have become even wilier in their techniques to evade anti-spam and anti-phishing software. They began as simple junk e-mail messages containing readable text and links to websites, but spam and phishing have now evolved into garbled messages showing no coherence or into text rendered in image files that enter your mailbox by stealth.

You have to ensure that your e-mail address is adequately protected because it’s all that spammers and phishers need to attack. They use a program called spam bots to harvest all the e-mail addresses they can find online. For example, if a user posts an e-mail address in the usual “user@domainname.com” format on a website or forum, the spam bot will automatically recognize and capture it into its database.


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