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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 |
<>Based on a test run by the Center for Democracy and Technology, over 97 percent of spam being delivered involves e-mail addresses published on a website. Thus, if you absolutely need to share your e-mail address through the Web, you may need to employ different techniques of communicating your e-mail address so you can evade the spam harvesters. For instance, some people mask e-mail addresses under the “user [at] domainname [dot] com” format or use free tools like the e-mail icon generator at http://services.nexodyne.com/email/index.php, which saves your e-mail address as an image that make it possible for you to share it on websites, forums, etc.

 

HOW TO FIGHT SPAM

To combat unsolicited e-mail even more effectively, you may consider setting up an alternative e-mail account that can serve as a filtering layer for all messages. Free e-mail providers like Gmail offer forwarding services that you can use to have your mail delivered to your main inbox. Since these e-mail providers have excellent spam blocking software, they also greatly minimize the chances of your mailbox getting spam.

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In the event that even your alternative e-mail address gets deluged with spam, you can simply get rid of it and create a new one. This is a particularly useful strategy for people who need to sign up with certain websites but don’t wish to give the detailed information provided in their main e-mail account.

Some phishing attacks can be avoided at the e-mail level. A good precaution is to first go over the acceptance policies of websites and check if they have a list of authorized e-mail addresses. Most of the time, if not all the time, these providers will never ask for your password since they have other safe means of accessing your account like administrator access. Now, if you find yourself in a situation where you have already accessed a link from a phishing e-mail, always double-check if the Web address matches the same domain as the e-mail sent to you. If not, it can be a sign that what you have received a phishing e-mail. Phishers are known to set up dummy pages on other people’s websites.

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Some websites also employ SSL technology to encrypt data like passwords over the Internet, which is the same technology used as the de facto standard for online banking. Thus, if you don’t see an “https://” prefix on the Web address or a padlock icon in one of the corners of your browser, there’s a possibility that there is a phishing attempt on your computer.

Phishers can penetrate even the more sophisticated security systems of these companies because of the more technologically advanced phishing techniques they have developed recently. Among such techniques is address bar spoofing, which means that they can actually make it appear that the Web address you are visiting is legitimate. The risk from this new phishing technology, though, can be mitigated by upgrading to a new Web browser like Firefox.

At any rate, even if the preventive measures that we take now may not be effective against the next generation of intrusive e-mail, it would be wise to be prudent and always vigilant in dealing with spam and phising. To avoid—if not completely minimize—problems with them, we must learn how to recognize them and to delete them from our mailboxes at once.


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