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Spam, spam, spam, lovely spam

Dec 02, 20023 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalwareMessaging Apps

Blacklists – not spam – threaten to totally disrupt communications.

Spam. As a food we celebrate its virtues in two well-publicized festivals, one in Austin, Texas and another in Austin, Minn., home of the Spam Museum. Most everyone thinks Spam, the food, is a fun subject.

Spam. As a verb, it is undoubtedly the most reviled subject in cyberspace. Seemingly mature, rational individuals seem to foam at the mouth when the subject is raised. And this occurs even if we aren’t talking about vile, perverted sexual practices.

Even receiving yet-another copy of the infamous Nigerian Spam Scam  is enough to set them off.

I use a combination of mail filters and the delete key to rid myself of the stuff because I have many fairly widely seen addresses, leading to a volume of about 500 pieces of spam per day. There are days when more than 90% of the mail I receive can be classed as spam.

Yes, it’s irritating, but when my most liberal friends start screaming for the death penalty for spammers I begin to think the problem has gotten out of hand.

Not the spam problem – that’s been out of hand for years. No, I mean the antispam problem that threatens to totally disrupt communications through the use of blacklists (see an earlier column Spam rebel with a cause) while diverting attention from the really insidious security threats within the Internet. Code Red and Nimda did far more damage to computer systems than all the spam put together – but the people most often criticized were not the creators but those who didn’t prevent the attacks from occurring.

Weeding out the spam in your e-mail is no different than weeding out the unwanted marketing materials in your snail mail. It’s little different from “weeding out” the weeds in your garden.

If you aren’t vigilant, the weeds will overwhelm the flowers. Many of us have neither the time nor the training to do constant weeding in the garden, so we hire people to do the weeding for us.

But if you do that and the person you hire pulls up flowers along with the weeds, do you simply say that its “acceptable collateral damage,” or do you fire that gardener and get one who can tell the difference between a weed and a daffodil?

You should use the same care when choosing antispam utilities and services.

Tip of the week

The best way to stop spammers is to hit them where it hurts — in the pocketbook. Novell did that to one who had abused its free public e-mail hosting service, MyRealBox by taking it to court and winning. It’s a small victory, but one we should all applaud.