Wednesday, November 14, 2007

FW: QuickTips on Foiling Spam at Work from Evan Stein

Don't Let Spam Wreck Your Business

Even small businesses have to be on the Web these days, and chances are you rely pretty heavily on mobile devices - cell phones, PDAs, or laptops - to get your work done.  That means spammers have more ways than ever to reach you.  Here are a few spam and spam-related annoyances you should be aware of, and how to fix them:

Regular old spam.  Spammers have two main ways to get your address: they either auto-generate random addresses, hoping they'll reach a real inbox, or they harvest addresses from Web sites.  There's nothing you can do about auto generators, but you can make it harder for spammers to figure out what your email address is.  Wherever you list your contact information on your corporate Web site, make sure to render your email address in a form that people can make sense of but that will stump automated crawlers looking for typical email configurations.  For example, instead of displaying your email address as "", type it out in words as "info at company dot com".  Better yet, just include a web form for people to fill out if they want more information.  The people who want to reach your company will fill out the form, and the unsavory types (and robots) will give up and move on to the next potential victim.

Image spam. Spammers have long since gotten wise to the fact that filters catch many of their keywords and intentional misspellings.  So now, instead of text emails, spammers send out emails that look like text when in fact they're HTML code that displays the image of text.  As a result, it slips by all of your company's keyword filters ...but you can still read the message and be annoyed by it.  Fortunately, most email programs now allow you to turn off automatic HTML rendering, which prevents you from downloading the image in the first place.

Bluetooth spam.  If you use a Bluetooth-enabled phone, you're at risk for two kinds of hassle - one of which is merely an annoyance and one of which is illegal.  "Bluejacking" allows someone with a Bluetooth-enabled device to push an unsolicited message to anyone else on a Bluetooth device within range.  You might be on the receiving end of some goofy guerilla marketing campaigns and your phone bill might go up if you get a barrage of unexpected text messages, but you're unlikely to suffer permanent harm.  "Bluesnarfing," on the other hand, can actually be dangerous to your privacy.  This is when another Bluetooth user actually accesses and steals the information on your phone such as your contacts and any other personal data you have stored on it.  Right now it's not a huge problem, because the thief has to maintain uninterrupted contact with your device at close range (about 10 meters) for 2-3 minutes.  That sets the bar pretty high for all but the most committed data hounds.  Still, if you're worried about it, you can disable Bluetooth when you aren't using it (which saves battery life anyhow) or make yourself "undiscoverable" (meaning you're undetectable to other Bluetooth devices).

Can You Stop Spam for Good?

Unfortunately, spam is - like cold calls and carpal tunnel syndrome - just a part of doing business in the modern age.  But you can take measures to ensure you aren't wasting valuable work hours deleting piles of emails you never asked for.

First, fly low on the radar: make sure your Web site publishes your email address in a form that's only readable to humans, and disable your mobile device's Bluetooth when you aren't using it.  Second, sign yourself up for a reliable spam filtering service that will catch the unsolicited email you receive and route it to a junk mail box so that you don't have to look at it.  CMIT Solutions' Spam Filtering Service with Total Control offers easy, reliable spam protection for a low monthly cost. 


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