If you have an email account, you will have been sent various spam messages countless times since you opened your account. Your personal account you may be a little more relaxed about the prospect of opening a spam message. For a business email account, it is very different.
What Is Spam?
Spam is classified as an unsolicited message which reaches your email inbox. It may appear that the message is for you, but it typically targets many recipients. The purpose of a spam message is to advertise products and services, spreading malware or phishing.
What Is The Difference Between Spam And Legitimate Messages?
Messages that are spam have certain characteristics and aim to cause disruption. The spam characteristics appear in two main areas of an email message:
- Email Header
- Message Content
This is typically the area where certain key information is held. This key information is likely to contain sender information, date and time of email receipt and recipient. The email subject will also be included within the email header information.
Most spammers will try and hide the information and data that is likely to reveal who they are or where the email has been sent from. This deception is the first thing you should look into before opening any email that is suspicious of nature.
As most spam messages are sent out to a large list of recipients, spammers will use certain spam tactics to avoid being ‘caught’. Again, you need to look at the information that is included within the email header to ascertain whether the email is genuine or not. Newsletters tend to be caught up or confused with spam. This is because a newsletter will be sent out to large contact databases. This can confuse the spam filters, leading the newsletter to be blocked.
Things To Look Out For In An Email Header
If the recipients email address is not included within the email header, it could mean that this is hidden. Spammers do this to hide the other email addresses within their contact database. These contact databases can be obtained by both legal and illegal means.
Email addresses should be included within any legitimate communication. This is in accordance with the RFC 822, the worldwide standard.
If you receive an email with no recipient email address, this could mean that it is spam.
You may also find that the information held within the email to, or email from, areas that it may also look unfamiliar. Some spam messages may contain invalid or non-existent email addresses. It may be that your email address if you are the recipient is spelt incorrectly.
Again, if you receive an email from an unidentified source it is worth double checking the email header.
This will contain information related to the mailing software used by the sender to send an email message.
Tools like mailcleaner.net will check the X-Mailer information to see if any incoming message has been sent by popular spam software.
Legitimate businesses and individuals will use legitimate software to send out their emails. This is a good indicator of the quality of the email sender.
A popular distribution source is Pegasus, especially for those who send spam messages. It is worth seeing if this information is displayed under your email header.
An email message is made up of two key parts. One is the email header, which has already been covered. The other is the message content. The message content is just as likely to contain spam message elements. However, this can be harder to identify, and you may have to open the message to determine if the message is spam or not.
Just like a website, an email is coded in HTML. Of course, when you open a message you cannot always see the danger. The danger can lie beneath what you see in the form of the code.
Another way spam can be introduced to your system or computer is through comment tags within emails. These comment tags are an ideal way for spammers to hide spam related words or phrases from mail filter tools. Some tools can react and remove spam messages that use this technique; however it is made more difficult if lots of comment tags are used.
Most legitimate email senders send both a HTML version and a plain text version to their recipients. This is because, not all email systems open HTML emails and some fall back on plain text versions. As discussed already, spammers use the code within the HTML of the email to hide certain spam elements. They do not send out plain versions of their emails, otherwise the spam code that is used within the HTML is left exposed.
How Do You Stop Spam Disrupting Your Business?
Although the threat of spam messages causing disruption to your business is very real, there are a number of ways in which it can be stopped. Spammers are getting more advanced, and therefore will do anything to avoid being caught. You opening and clicking on an email is their goal, and they will play dirty for that to happen.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to stop them achieving this.
There is a number of stand-alone and in-built spam filtering tools that you can deploy to reduce spam reaching your business inbox. These will all have a mail filtering mechanism that will enable you to block the majority of incoming spam messages.
Be warned, not all systems are perfect. Some tools will allow spam messages to reach your inbox, as well as blocking legitimate emails.
This is because spam filters look at different components of any incoming email. Some block by checking the domain name from the sender against a real time black hole list. Other tools will use filter spam based on the information that is provided, or not provided, in the email header. Most tools will look at the HTML code that sits behind the email message.
Whatever tool you use to protect yourself it will help save any harm and disruption to your business.