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Get proactive in the fight <br />against SPAM

If you have an electronic mail account, you've undoubtedly received an unsolicited e-mail message--"spam." They're pervasive. In fact, Barracuda Networks reported in December 2007 that spam now accounts for a staggering 95 percent of all e-mail traffic sent and received worldwide. In 2001, that figure was just 5 percent, further evidence of the exponential explosion in junk e-mail over the past several years.

We all know how irritating it can be to receive spam: if the message isn't touting a particular penny stock, it's relating your incredible good fortune at coming in contact with a Nigerian official privy to the unclaimed millions in the estate of a recently deceased government figurehead.

Such messages are a waste of time, and they're also dangerous. Estimates suggest American employees spend approximately one hour a week deleting unsolicited e-mail messages. In fact, excluding the occasional advertisement from an online retailer, spam is sent for one reason: to con its recipient. Whether you're told you can purchase prescription medication overseas or asked to submit personal information online to verify an account, the senders of spam are after your wallet and nothing more.

While many of us are inclined to simply delete unwanted messages as we encounter them, there are a number of proactive steps that can be taken to both reduce the number of unsolicited messages received, as well as to protect the end user from spam sent with malicious intent:

  • Take advantage of e-mail filters that come standard in products such as Microsoft Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007.
  • Block images in HTML messages.
  • Turn off automatic processing of meeting requests and read and delivery receipts.
  • Limit where you post your e-mail address online.
  • Watch out for check boxes that are already selected. When you buy things online, companies sometimes add a check box--already selected--to indicate that it is fine to sell or give your e-mail address to third parties. Clear the check box so that your e-mail address won't be shared.
  • Don't reply to spam.
  • If you are solicited via e-mail for personal information, don't respond by sending a message. Most legitimate companies will not ask for personal information by e-mail. Be suspicious if they do.
  • Don't forward chain e-mail messages.
  • Have the most current versions of the market's leading antivirus and anti-Spyware software products installed.
  • Lastly, consider investing in a hardware device or service designed to curtail the number of spam messages your business receives. Products marked by 3Com and Barracuda allow the administrator superior control of e-mail filters, settings and other tools designed to bring the flood of spam your business receives to a halt.
  • If the purchase of such a device simply isn't in your company's budget, many regional service providers offer spam-defense services for as little as $20 per month. Such services enable you to utilize the features of spam-defense hardware devices for a fraction of the cost of buying one for your business, and they have proven to be more than 95 percent effective at blocking unsolicited e-mail messages.

    - Jason Facer is the president and COO of Area-Wide Technologies. He can be reached at (217) 359-8041 or jafacer@areawidetech.com.

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