SPAM is a part of
"Internet Life." What is it? Depending on whom you ask it is an acronym for
Soliciting, Promoting, Advertising and Merchandising or a reference to Monty Python's
Flying Circus famous routine "SPAM." Internet Administrators define it as
Unsolicited Business Mail or Commercials (UBM or UBC) or cross posting (multi-posting) to
Internet newsgroups. What you consider unsolicited email might vary from that of the ISP
or subscription service that you use, or the laws enacted and pending by various
governments. Cross posting and multiposting occurs in relation to newsgroups and message
boards when an advertisement is sent to more then 4-10 groups or postings are
"off-subject" to a group. For example, posting petcare advertising to discussion
groups dealing with space travel, physics, education reform, etc.
There are many ways that spammers get around
open their email when you would otherwise hit the "delete" button. One of those
techniques is "spoofing."
As brief as possible: "Spoofing" is
a tactic usually employed by a "spammer" to appear to be a trusted or authentic
sender of email in order to circumvent anti-spam laws or ISP terms of service violations.
Spoof email relies on those that are new or novice to the Internet (folks that can't read
the "language of headers"), are gullible, or have an email program that does not
reveal "headers." An email that says FROM: firstname.lastname@example.org may actually be
from a total stranger. A "spoofer" employs techniques to alter email from
another party and often obscure origination information with false headers.
"So how do I know if it really came
from my friend Joe?"
One way is to look at the headers.
OK...so what's a "header?"
Ironically, "headers" may appear at the end of an email, more often they
are at the top of an email. Some email programs don't display headers at all or only
partial headers. Some programs have to be configured to display headers. Most people would
describe headers as a bunch of unintelligible computer "stuff" in their email
that they never bother to read because they don't have any idea what it's all about
I won't detail the process of
"decoding" the information in a header but here's what one looks like:
(Information has been altered to preserve privacy.)
X-Persona: <Henry County Web>
Received: from outxxxmta.topxxx.com (outxxxmta.topxxx.com [###.132.##.#41]) by
pop3.xxx.xxx (8.8.8/8.6.9) with SMTP id EAAxx718 for <email@example.com>; Tue, 6 Mar
2001 04:27:55 -0500 (EST)
From: TipXxx tipXxx@boxing.topxxx.com
Subject: Microsoft Windows 98 [TRACKING YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION - 03/06/2001]
Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2001 01:27:13 -0800
If the open email says FROM:
firstname.lastname@example.org, the header may or may not say the same in the FROM line, or perhaps
If Joe is your friend and you regularly
receive email from him you probably are familiar with "his style." We all have a
style of emoticons we use, phrases, etc. Suppose that you know that Joe always signs his
email "ttyl -JB" and always has a business "signature file" at the
end. Your email that looks like it came from Joe but doesn't have his typical "ttyl
-JB" at the end might be from someone else. 'Better email the real "Joe"
and ask him about this email.
If you think you have a bona fide spammer
problem you can report the spam. But, FIRST, determine if it really IS spam. Contact the
sending domain's service provider at email@example.com (where xxxxx.xxx is apparent domain
name). Let them take over from there. They will request that you send samples of the
offending message, so don't trash the spam until after the domain administrator replies to
The above suggestions are just that,
suggestions. They are only the tip-of-the-iceberg in dealing with spam. If you want to
learn more about how to read "headers" and other SPAM related issues I recommend
The Anti-Spam Home Page
and the software to install on your PC:
Many email programs and
Service Providers include Spam Filtering. That's a good thing,
mostly. But make sure you now where the filtered email goes so you
can review it should a "good" email accidently get junked. Some
providers allow you to create a black list/white list (even some
anti-virus programs include black/white lists) and some set there own
rules and may be a little "over zealous" in protecting you from unwanted