Malspam, short for malware spam or malicious spam, is email spam that delivers malware. While regular spam is simply any unsolicited email, malspam contains infected attachments, phishing messages, or malicious URLs. It can also deliver a myriad of malware types, including ransomware, Trojans, bots, info-stealers, cryptominers, spyware, and keyloggers.
Why Does Spam Exist?
Spam thrives because it works. People buy products advertised in junk email. When enough people respond to a email spam, the sender makes a profit (or gains information) and is encouraged to send more email spam.
Only a minuscule proportion of the junk email sent out needs to generate revenue for a spam-spouting business to cross the breakeven point. Spam is inexpensive to send.
Some Examples of Email Spam
Unless you use filters judiciously, there’s a good chance your inbox is full of spam right now. Spam consists of:
- Email messages you did not ask for that are from senders you don’t know.
- Unsolicited commercial email messages sent in bulk, often to a purchased (or stolen) mailing list that contains your address.
- Counterfeit messages that look like they were sent by reliable sources that attempt to trick you into supplying your personal information.
- Misleading messages from people you know whose email accounts have been hacked.
Not all spam is illegal, but some of it is.
Why Is Spam Bad?
Spam can be more than a nuisance. It costs time, money, and resources to process, filter, or manually delete. The prevalence of spam and the resources it takes to avoid being spammed makes email less attractive as a medium. Additionally, you might experience other negative effects.
- When you respond to one unsolicited advertisement, you could end up on the mailing lists of many sellers, thereby increasing the junk mail that comes into your account.
- If you respond to an email sender who is falsely posing as someone you know or as your bank (for example), you risk handing your private information over to a stranger with evil intentions. Identity theft is a huge problem. Don’t make it easy for others to steal yours.
- Some spamming is illegal. Unsolicited mail that is sexually harassing or contains child pornographic material is illegal. So are attempts to attain your credit card information.
- Spam preys on inexperienced or naive email users.
Protection against Email Spam
“Spam” has been an Internet buzzword since the dawn of email, but what is it, exactly? Basically, email spam is a form of junk email, unwanted by the recipient. It commonly is a single message which contains advertisements and is sent to a variety of recipients who never agreed to receive such messages. The most common methods spammers use to build up their email lists include: purchasing lists of addresses, tricking users into handing over their information through fake contests and false freebie offers, or using email-harvesting programs to extract addresses from websites.
Why Is Email Spam More than a Nuisance
There are many reasons to avoid interacting with email spam, but the some of the truly troubling scenarios include the possibility that you will be putting yourself at risk for identity theft or allowing an attacker to load viruses and malware onto your computer. In the worst-case scenarios, you could even be charged with crimes you weren’t aware you were helping the spammer commit. Such as being involved in money laundering or handling stolen items. In most cases when handling a spam message, the best course of action is to simply delete the message immediately.
As a rule of thumb, if you want to avoid spam messages, it is important to remember that if something is too good to be true, then it probably is. This will help you weed out contests and offers that seem iffy.
How to Protect Yourself from Email Spam?
Although email spam can be difficult to avoid, you can greatly reduce and even eliminate the amount of spam clogging your inbox by using proper anti-spam software. Thanks to advances in software intelligence, many anti-spam filters are able to automatically learn which messages are legitimate and which are spam with minimal user intervention. In the case that a spam filter misses a spam message, the user simply can flag the message. That causes the filters to adapt to the new threat. Now let’s see the tips of protecting yourself from Email spam.
1. Train your filter
When you find spam in your inbox, don’t just delete it. Select it, and tell your mail client that this particular message is spam. How you do this depends on your client. For instance, if you are using Gmail’s website, click the Report spam button in the toolbar (the icon looks like an exclamation point inside a stop sign).
You also need to train the client about your false positives. Once a day, go through your spam folder looking for messages that don’t belong there. When you find one, select it and tell the client that it made a mistake. In Gmail, you click the Not spam button.
If your mail client is halfway decent, it will learn from these mistakes, but only if you train it.
2. Never respond to spam
If you recognize something as spam before you open it, don’t open it. If you open it and then realize it is spam, close it. Do not click a link or a button, or download a file, from a message that you even remotely suspect is spam.
If you opened a spam because it appeared to be coming from a friend or co-worker, contact them immediately and let them know that their account has been compromised.
3. Hide your email address
The more people who have your email address, the more spam you are going to get. So keep your address close to your chest.
Don’t publish it on the web unless you absolutely have to. And if you have to, use a different address for that purpose.
4. Use a third-party anti-spam filter
Most of the major security suites come with an anti-spam filter that can augment the one on your client but only if that client is local. In other words, they can work with Office’s Outlook program, but not with Outlook.com.
5. Change your email address
This is a very drastic option, but if you have responded to spam in the past or haven’t hidden your address, and are therefore overloaded with spam, it may be your best option.
Of course you will have to inform your legitimate contacts about the change, and you will probably have to keep both addresses for a few months. But once you can get rid of the old address, your spam count should plummet.
The Importance of Bundling Security Software
When shopping for anti-spam software, it pays to pick a solution that is bundled with antivirus protection because some spam messages come laden with viruses and other malware. By using a single software suite, you greatly simplify the process of securing your computer while also improving the reliability of your system. Although anti-spam software is able to divert the messages from your inboxes, having a solid antivirus software program ensures that if you accidentally open a spam message, your computer does not get infected.