6 Different Types of Spam and How to Avoid ThemWritten by Paul Mah on September 22, 2010
We try to cover all aspects of spam here such as new developments on the phishing and malware front, technical know-how, preventive measures, and maybe even a dash of humour too. Beyond the email spam that we are all-too-familiar with however, administrators and IT managers are often tasked to tackle other forms of digital trash as well.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some other forms of spam out there including tips on how to avoid them.
- Email Spam
As noted earlier, email spam is something that we are very familiar with. In fact, in my blog post Why You Should Invest in Spam Protection I explain the importance of not allowing spam free reign in your business. There are many techniques that can be deployed, ranging from advanced Bayesian Spam Filtering that can be implemented on your own email server, or a hosted spam filtering service. The battle is never-ending though, so do check back often for new developments on this blog!
- Comment Spam
Corporate blogs have quickly become an indispensible means of spreading the word on new products and services, as well as a means to obtain timely feedback from customers. As you might expect, spammers have been quick to subvert the ability to post comments for their nefarious purpose.
Fortunately, there is a plethora of tools with which to battle comment spam. Cloud-based web services like Akismet exists to sieve out comment spam and trackback spam, for which plug-ins have already been developed for most blog or CMS implementations. Enabling the use of CAPTCHAS is also reasonably effective against automated postings.
Other tips for popular sites would be to automatically close comments on articles after a reasonable number of days and holding a comment in moderation until approved – at least for the first time. Of course, more advanced techniques like Bayesian filtering, blacklisting of IPs and comment throttling can also be employed at heavily trafficked sites.
- Instant Messenger Spam
While not as prevalent as in the past, the occasional instant messaging (IM) spam run continue to take place periodically. The easiest way to stay on top of the situation would be to ignore any invites from unknown persons, and to consider links from strangers to be outright hostile, or a phishing attempt. Even when offered a URL from existing friends, one important precaution to take (especially if it’s a shortened URL) would be to first verify that your pal’s account has not fallen victim to a successful phishing attempt and commandeered by a mindless script.
Also, a lesser known fact is that practically every IM service has some sort of profile page or directory listing from which spammers might harvest your contact details. As such, it makes sense to take the effort to configure your configuration accordingly. Privacy options vary, but AIM allows you to disable determining your screen name by using your e-mail address (Default: Linked), while Yahoo! Messenger allows you to hide your profile from others (Default: Visible to everyone).
- Junk Fax
The fax machine is certainly not used as much as it was in its heyday, though many businesses still find themselves forced to rely on it occasionally. The presence of the odd fax does mean that some businesses become the unwitting recipient of junk fax transmissions, however.
Thankfully, there are many ways to combat junk fax, assuming businesses are aware of them. For example, most fax machines these days come with the ability to store incoming fax transmissions in memory, giving users a chance to preview them prior to printing; more advanced models could even be configured to forward them as a PDF attachment to specified e-mail accounts. Yet another alternative involves subscribing to an electronic fax service, foregoing any hardware investment altogether.
- Unsolicited Text Messages
Unsolicited text messages (SMS) is one of those vectors that is hard to filter against. As a preventive measure, it’s always good not to give out one’s contact details by filling up “lucky draw” forms or surveys. On the positive front, the costs of sending text messages means spamming can become expensive quickly, and it is (comparatively) easy to trace the source of text messages and file a complaint with your provider. What is critical here is that users are trained not to click on any proffered links, given the popularity of smartphones that might be prone to malware spread using it.
- Social Networking Spam
As with practically every new medium, spammers have started to flood social networking sites with spam and phishing attempts. Efforts for now are limited to messages or wall posts, though this will certainly evolve over time. For now, Twitter offers a great number of tools to protect its users, and it is possible to block or un-join accounts used to spam without notifying them about it. Where Facebook is concerned, my advice would be to impose a policy of only befriending those that you know explicitly. Ultimately, users need to be wary of clicking on URLs, given the widespread use of shortened URLs on most social networking media.