Unwanted Email

According to Postini (http://www.postini.com/news_events/pr/pr011007.php), the amount of spam we get in our inboxes is continuing to rise and is in fact rising dramatically. The question I often get is “Why”? Why would anyone want to do this and who, if anyone benefits?

The question has several answers. One is the “Technology anarchists” who delight in causing mayhem on the Internet. For the sheer pleasure of it, they go out and create viruses and spam to fill up the internet pipelines. I know that I have spent more time than I care to think of simply eliminating junk from my inbox.

Then there are the spammers that actually make money. Even if they only get a .001 response rate from their spam, if they send out 10,000,000 messages, they can make a lot of money. And they obviously don’t care who they inconvenience in the process.

Next there’s folks like you and me. If we don’t have our computers and networks sufficiently protected, the bad guys will use our systems for their launching grounds. They hack into our computers and use their network of 100’s or 1000’s of compromised computers to launch new spam and virus attacks.

There may not be a lot we can do about the first two answers but we can do an awful lot about the third one. First, you need to have a functioning firewall in place that blocks unwanted incoming traffic and monitors outgoing traffic (to alert you if there is unusual outgoing traffic). Next you need to make sure you keep your computer up-to-date with security updates. That used to just mean from Microsoft but now you need to check just about every program you have including Adobe Acrobat Reader and Java to make sure that they are all securely up-to-date.

Then we need to make sure that our computers and network devices have valid, up-to-date antivirus software on them. I am amazed at the number of small businesses that we work with that just don’t “get” the importance of protecting their data, their employees, and their customers by keeping antivirus software up to date.

And in 2007 an anti-spyware package is also essential. Many manufacturer’s now bundle anti-spyware with their anti-virus products but whether they’re bundled or not, you need this protection. Microsoft has a free anti-spyware program that you can download from their web site. It is called Defender.

Finally, we can all exercise a little caution when our surfing. If a web site is trying to download and install a program onto your computer, make sure you understand what it is and what you’re getting yourself into. Many sites have “handy” toolbars that you can use. Many of these are valid like the major search engine toolbars that actually improve your surfing experience. But others are designed to track what pages you visit and then “serve” you ads based on what sites you visit. Also take time to read the license agreement. Often buried deep is the key information saying that by downloading said program, you also agree to download and install another program that will, in effect spy on you.


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