I am convinced that junk mail is the devil’s work. I admittedly have a difficult time discarding paper even to a recycle bin. Paper is tangible. I like paper. Paper makes me feel good – leaving me with a feeling of obligation to keep it, store it somewhere, even to place a value on the fact that someone took the time to send it to me. I have much less of an affinity to the spam mail that clogs up my e-mail inbox, primarily because of the all-too-often offensive subject matter of the material.
Not unlike paper junk mail, spam mail is the receipt of unsolicited e-mail – the result of companies attempting to get the most online advertising for the least amount of money. Or is it the least effective form of online advertising on a shoestring budget? Either way, e-junk mail has all come about as spam mailers (spammers) have invaded a separate part of the Internet using their own methods, politics, and host computers to harass and annoy Internet users. While identifying them may be the easy part, getting rid of them can be a time-consuming and tedious undertaking.
Here is where I began my quest for information. Very effortlessly, I repeatedly came across the name of one P. Lutus of Port Hadlock, WA, (see bio) who appears to be the expert on the treacheries of spamming, as well as offering a variety of solutions to the problems they create.
Identifying a Spammer
P. Lutus advises frustrated users to look at the e-mail header and find the source host name and address. This may take some practice as spammers can be very good at hiding the actual host name. Lutus offers a “Whosit” utility on his website (www.arachnoid.com/lutusp/antispam.html) to assist users in identifying spam host sites. He also advises users not to rely on the
e-mail’s return address as this is seldom the actual origin of the spam. Other information found in the e-mail header may be much more useful and more likely to lead to the actual identity of the sender. Lutus admits that users may have to play around with it for a while.
Lutus offers the following guidelines for handling and eliminating spam mail:
• Never respond to a spam e-mail. For a spammer, one “hit” among thousands of mailings is enough to justify the practice.
• Never respond to the spam e-mail’s instructions to reply with the word “remove.” This is just a trick to get you to react to the e-mail – it alerts the sender that a human is at your address, which greatly increases its value. If you reply, your address is placed on more lists and you receive more spam.
• Never sign up with sites that promise to remove your name from spam lists. These sites are of two kinds: sincere and spam address collectors. In both cases your address is recorded and valued more highly because you have just identified it as read by a human.
• Never mail-bomb spam sites to engage in hacking to stop spammers. This only increases the amount of wasted Internet traffic, creates sympathy for spammers, and makes the Internet even less reliable.
• Take meaningful action to stop spammers. Filter their messages or their sites. Write their host sites without revealing your real e-mail address. Write your congressional representatives about any sites that are used as relays.
• Taking out the trash on my computer may be an easier task than sorting through the stacks of papers in my office. Either way, from my perspective, it’s garbage in, garbage out.
Clara M.W. Vangen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is technologies editor at Buildings magazine. Portions of this article were used with the express written permission of P. Lutus, ©2001.