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spam must be canned

do you want to get rid of wrinkles for good and look years younger? how would you like to get rid of your debt in one easy step? come-ons like these are about as irritating as those solicitors that walk into your workplace when you are focusing on an important task. they both have at least two things in common; they are uninvited and are hard to eliminate.

since the beginning of e-mail, internet users have had to tediously sort through an insurmountable amount of unsolicited, commercial e-mail, otherwise known as "spam," before accessing their legitimate email. not only is separating the welcome e-mail from the intrusive a tiresome task, it is a necessary one if we are to maximize precious hard drive and server space, not to mention our own valuable time.

spam is not a new phenomenon, but it is a problem that is growing exponentially--it has been around long enough to become part of vernacular language--and costs very little for the sender compared to sending u.s. postal service mail. this makes spam the method of choice for ham-handed marketers to reach you, and millions like you, by plastering their billboards throughout cyberspace trying to get your attention.

keep in mind that spammers spend a great deal of time and effort gathering addresses and personal information. but until governmental organizations pass appropriate legislation against spam, each one of us needs to rely on our own intuition to recognize when offers are out of bounds, and to find the means to curb the amount of spam that wastes our time.

let's take a look at how spam gets compiled and ends up on our screens.

selling information – you may wonder how spammers obtain your email address. many legitimate organizations sell your information to the private sector and to others who request such lists. this information can come from state departments of motor vehicles, schools and public libraries, to mention a few. private institutions sell information given to them when you register on their web sites.
email harvesting – this is probably one of the most controversial email collecting tactics used today. spammers visit newsgroups and forums to extract all the emails on that newsgroup for use in mass mailings.
pattern emails – spammers have developed software that takes known domain names (domainname.com) and appends
common mailbox names to them (john@domainname.com, marysmith@domainname.com). this is called a dictionary attack.
it is certainly time that local and federal government organizations begin to set limits to decrease spam. it seems that this growing problem has finally gotten the attention of the folks in washington, and they are looking into ways of addressing the issue. there have been four bills put forth by legislators, yet none has yet succeeded in becoming law.

of course, our best defense in the "war on spam" is for each of us to become more cautious about what personal information we give out and to whom. we also need to discriminate about what is in good taste and what is akin to a polyester-clothed, door to door vacuum cleaner salesman eager to dump a load of dirt on our carpet in order to sell his product.

my next article will explain ways to control spam. future articles will examine current initiatives being taken by the u.s. government and what is being tools are available to you today.

as seen in hudson valley business journal july 11, 2003

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