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Spam Quick Reference

Spam or junk e-mail is officially known as unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) or other unsolicited bulk e-mail (UBE). Advertising, chain letters, and false virus warnings are common types.

Spam usually contains a forged return address. Often your own address will not appear in the header. However, forging e-mail header information is very easy, and spammers can even forge headers to appear as if their message has been sent from within your organization.

Spam can be used as a form of harassment. If your account is being used as a default reply-to address of external mass mailings, please contact the Help Desk at 604-412-7444 (option 1) immediately.

Filtering: is it effective?

Most e-mail software, including Outlook, allows you to set rules about the content of e-mail fields (e.g. sender or subject) and to file away or outright delete messages containing dubious words or other features. However, defining “Junk mail” in this way may take more time than it’s worth. Spammers constantly adapt to push their junk past filters.

Our recommendations

Remove it: The best tactic to adopt when you receive spam is to outright delete the message without opening it. You may carry out this operation manually or use Outlook Rules to automatically remove or file the flagged spam. It is not necessary to report unflagged spam e-mail (messages without SPAM in the subject line).

Don’t invite it: The main preventive technique is simply to refrain from exposing your e-mail address. Do not subscribe, log in, register, publish or offer your e-mail address to any Internet service or website unless you trust the site completely. You can also create yourself a free e-mail account (Hotmail, Yahoo,….) expressly for the purpose of handling online subscriptions or transactions. (If your mail host offers you a quick spam reporting service, no harm in using that.)

For more information on the nature of spam and what to do about it, please refer to the two popular sites http://abuse.net/ and http://www.emailabuse.org/.  A web search using “spam” as a keyword will also yield numerous websites devoted to the subject. BCIT is not alone – this is a world-wide problem.

What not to do

These common responses to spam are ineffective and may even open you up to more spam.

  1. Reply in order to complain.
  2. Click the “Remove from List” link.  Either #1 or #2 will result in an undelivered message, or one sent to an innocent party, if the reply information has been forged. If it hasn’t, it will alert the spammer that your e-mail address is valid and in use. Bad idea.
  3. Trace the message back.  There are ways to trace what mail servers have forwarded the offending messages, but many servers are not used with the knowledge of their administrators. The true originators of these messages remain anonymous. Tracing spam requires very good understanding of e-mail protocols. The only recourse with the information obtained is to report the abusers to websites that specialize in tracking them down. None of this will help stop the flow of spam to your Inbox.