Because the central attraction of spam is the low cost to benefit ratio, making spam more expensive is the best way to fight spammers. Spam is cost effective because automated spambots troll the Internet, harvesting email addresses. These automated programs collect email addresses and compile them into large lists-lists that are both for direct marketing and resold for profit.
There are many small steps computer users can take to combat the problem of spam. Ultimately though, it is the webmaster or internet provider who possesses the best tools to fight this scourge. Using some of the same tools, webmasters and individual users can work together to reduce spam.
Step One: Disguise
Spambots are limited by sobitech their programming, so taking steps to disguise a publicly visible email address will make most spambots pass you by. Spambots look for character strings such as JohnDoe @ email.com. Simply adjusting your email address to JohnDoe-at-SPAMFREEemail.com might be enough to fool most spambots.
While some spambots may be able to harvest your disguised email address, it will require extra work, or scrubbing, to make it usable. Because there are so many possible variations (replace SPAMFREE in the above example with the word of your choice), scrubbing must be done by humans rather than by programs to be effective.
Webmasters can prevent spambots from harvesting email addresses by embedding them in graphics rather than in plain-text format. Very few spambots possess the ability to read and translate a graphic into text; the program codes are simply not that sophisticated.
If you do disguise the emails on your website, don’t forget to tell users to remind recipients to insert the @-sign and to delete the extra text before replying. If you take the graphic route, users will have to work a little harder because copy, paste and reply-to will not work.
Step Two: Build Walls
Efforts to disguise email addresses can make communication difficult, and unfairly place the burden on users and webmasters rather than on spammers. Webmasters can reverse this trend by working to block spambots entirely.
Most spambots can be easily spotted by their signature, IP address, or process name. Webmasters can also find spambots by watching out for non-browser User-Agents. By blocking unwanted IP addresses and processes, webmasters can block spambots. To block unwanted processes, simply start a cron job that will scan for the process name and terminate the associated process ID.
Skilled webmasters can create a daemon that “sleeps” until a given process name is activated. Once the process is activated, the daemon will wake up and kill the process before harvesting begins. If you need help with this technique, sample programs can be found by searching the Internet.
Finally, there are programs available that can rig a spambot trap that will block incoming requests based on patterns of excessive searching. Because this technique involves defining patterns and modifying them to handle a variety of spambots, it requires a more complex program code. Searching the internet will give you some sample scripts to work from if you want to pursue this avenue.
The Bottom Line
Always remember- spamming is a big business with large profit margins. Spammers depend on soft targets to allow them to do their work cheaply and easily. Every step you take to make your website a hard target increases the cost and effort necessary to obtain your information. By reducing the rate of return for spammers, webmasters can help drive them out of business.
Legislative efforts to fight spam, constantly improving junk mail filters, and the imposition of penalties for sending spam have already begun to have an impact. New proposals to fight spam are always being considered, measures that once implemented across a wide range of websites will make spam nothing more than a minor annoyance.
Want to learn more about how to protect your computer from spams and other internet threats? Check out this computer internet security webpage that provides helpful tips and tricks on how to fight spam better and make your computer safer.