Internet "spam" refers to unsolicited emails that companies and individuals send to you. Spam ranges from being simply annoying to dangerously offering pharmaceutical products without the need of a prescription, or any guarantee of what you're actually getting in the pills you purchase. Spam is widely seen as a problem for the Internet in general because the vast numbers of emails being sent take traffic away from applications that are actually useful to consumers and Internet businesses alike.
The United States is the worst offending country for generation of spam, followed by China and the Russian federation. South Africa is not in the top 10 offenders, partly because of our relatively strict controls against spam, but is still affected by spammers from across the world. One provider of antispam services (and there are many) had 2,509,170 complaints sent to it in the 24 hours prior to me writing this article. That's just one provider - and reflects usage of their service rather than a global spam statistic, so imagine how many emails are being sent out in total!
5 ways to reduce your spam
- Choose an internet service provider that uses server-side spam blocking. This helps to reduce the bandwidth that you use (which makes your hosting cheaper), improves your security (by blocking out malicious emails), and save you time (you don't need to manually delete spam).
- Remember that there are lots of services that offer temporary email addresses. If a company wants your email address in order to download something, purchase something, or register to use their forum you could give them a temporary email address. Just remember that if you ever need to reset a password or track a parcel you won't have access to the email address in the future!
- Challenge Response systems send out an email to anybody who sends you a mail requesting that they confirm that they are human by replying. Typically spammers won't reply to these emails so it is assumed that anybody who responds to the challenge email is human and not a spammer. Just choose a system that does not increase spam by backscatter - if a spammer fakes their "from" email address you will be sending unwanted spam to this poor victim.
- Consider using client side spam services to augment the services offered by your ISP. There are free solutions, like SpamPal, which employ a blend of approaches to effectively reduce your spam load. However, you will still be paying for the bandwidth cost of your spam problem!