How to fight spam

Oct 31, 2002, vol. 25, no. 5
By Carol Thorbes

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There may never be a spam-proof computer, however there are useful tips to stem the flow of electronic junkmail.

Given the absence of legislation in Canada to control spammers and email servers used as relay sites for spammers' information, “we have to be our own gatekeepers,” says SFU researcher Michael Parent (left).

“Don't ever open what looks to be spam material and don't ever comply with a request to unsubscribe if spammers ask you whether you want to keep receiving email from them,” offers Parent.

The very act of opening spam or unsubscribing can alert spammers that they have a live email address, a commodity they sell to spammers/marketers for a tidy profit.

Parent also recommends checking with your Internet service provider to make sure it doesn't sell client email addresses to spammers.

He says programming your Internet browser to check the websites you visit for cookies, software that collects information on website visitors, gives you a chance to withhold such information.

“Ninety two point eight per cent of websites gather information about you. More than 56.8 per cent of those collect demographic information about you,” notes Parent.

Lionel Tolan, SFU's director of academic computing services, advises users to diligently use sophisticated filters, such as the spam assassin, to reduce incoming spam.

He also recommends being judicious about putting email addresses on public web pages.

Spammers and marketers routinely use robotic software to scan websites for email addresses they can target.

“The higher your exposure on the Internet the greater your chances of being spammed,” warns Tolan.

ACS associate director Frances Atkinson suggests unlisting yourself from the SFU email directory.

Log into and select ‘account management', then ‘modify directory entry.'

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