Internet Safety Tips: Combat Spam, Spyware and Phishing


Spam

Although there is no internationally agreed-upon definition of "spam," many countries consider it to be any bulk commercial email sent without the express consent of recipients.

Go To Spam IQ Test
Statistics on Spam

(Last updated: March 2007)

In 2006, one of the key developments has been the significant increase in spam activity with levels now reaching 86.2%, the highest experienced since 2005. (MessageLabs Intelligence 2006 Annual Security Report)

However, in SophosLabs' annual analysis of all spam messages received in the company's global network of spam traps, Canada fell from 5th position in 2005 to 17th in 2006. This decline is partly due to the country's authorities' efforts to ensure ISPs follow best practices. (Sophos Security Threat Report 2007)

Another major development in 2006 was the increase in spam containing embedded images, which has nearly doubled from 18.5% in January to 35.1% at the end of December. (Sophos Security Threat Report 2007)


Percentage of total Internet Email Identified as SPAM
Source: Messagelabs

Month 2006 2005 2004
January 66.59% 83.11% 63.01%
February 60.60% 76.30% 59.90%
March 57.80% 68.81% 52.82%
April 58.50% 68.76% 67.61%
May 57.90% 68.72% 76.02%
June   67.25% 86.29%
July   65.16% 94.51%
August   65.10% 84.25%
September   67.60% 72.14%
October   68.00% 76.76%
November   59.70% 73.77%
December   57.40% 81.41%

Three Key Tips For Combatting Spam

Spam refers to unsolicited email, mostly commercial, advertising a product or service that is mass mailed to thousands of email addresses at a time, filling people’s Inboxes. Spam does not refer to legitimate commercial email for which consumers have given their consent. Spam is often a source of scams, viruses and offensive content.

Spam is a major problem that takes up valuable time and increases costs for consumers, business and governments. Each of us must do our part to protect ourselves and others from spam. Canada's Task Force on Spam has developed these three tips to help you protect yourself and fight spam.

    Protect your computer
    Spam is a growing source of computer viruses. It's critical that you protect your computer from virus-carrying spam messages. Install and regularly update antivirus and anti-spam software. If you don't have the extra protection of a firewall, get it.

    Protect your email address
    Reserve one email address for your trusted personal and business contacts. Create a separate, expendable email address for other online uses.

    Protect yourself
    Don't try, don't buy and don't reply to spam. Just delete it. It's a great way to prevent receiving more spam in the future.


Protect your computer

Shield your computer with anti-spam and antivirus programs, and other security software.

Anti-spam software can automatically scan your email for spam before it gets to your Inbox, sending it to a junk email box instead. This prevents you or a family member from inadvertently opening spam messages, and helps you manage your email more effectively.

To protect against virus-carrying messages and attachments, install security patches and antivirus programs on your operating system and update them regularly.

A firewall provides added protection from hackers by protecting your privacy and personal information.

Never go online with any computer before it has had anti-spam, antivirus and firewall protection installed.

Always question the source.

Never open attachments unless you are expecting them from someone you trust. Spammers can highjack the personal and corporate email accounts of others - a process known as "spoofing" - to send viruses that can corrupt your computer. If you are in doubt about an attachment, verify with the sender before opening it.

Don't let your computer become a spam zombie.

Without the system protection listed here, your computer could be infected with viruses that are programmed to create gateways (known technically as proxies) that relay spam to other email recipients. In severe cases, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may have to shut down your account. An infected computer can cost hundreds - or even thousands - of dollars to repair.

When completing a session on the Internet, it is a good idea to disconnect from the Internet and shut down your system. Spammers are increasingly seeking out and exploiting unprotected home computers with high-speed Internet connections to use as "spam zombies."


Protect your e-mail

Manage your online risks.

Use separate email addresses for different online activities: create one email address and share it only with trusted personal and business contacts. Create expendable email addresses for other online activities. If these email addresses become clogged with spam, discard them.

Select an email address consisting of a combination of letters and numbers. By choosing a more complex email address, you are making it more difficult for spammers to randomly discover and fill your email account using software that randomly combines people's first and last names.

Stay under cover.

Posting your email address anywhere on the Internet will attract spam. Share your email addresses only with people you know and trust.

Spammers collect email addresses using programs such as spiders, crawlers and bots that search the Internet for email addresses to add to their lists.

If you are swamped with spam, change your email address.


Protect Yourself

Just delete it.

Don't try, don't buy, and don't reply. Never visit Web sites or buy anything advertised in a spam message. Spam is almost always a scam. Just delete it.

Don't respond.

Never open, reply to or click on the "remove" or "unsubscribe" link in a spam message. These actions can confirm your email address, causing you to receive more spam.

Don't let spammers hook you like a "phish". Protect your personal information.

Spammers can reel in your valuable personal information through a practice known as "phishing." This occurs when an email shows up appearing to come from a reliable source with whom you do business, like a bank or online business. Often the message suggests that there is an urgent need for you to provide personal information, such as your login name, passwords or even credit card numbers, often combined with the faked threat that your account will be blocked if you do not comply. In these cases, the website link provided is to a copycat, but counterfeited site. Be aware that companies will NEVER contact customers in this manner. If you have doubts, don't trust the information supplied in the email, call the company to confirm if the request is legitimate. Also, never reply to these messages or connect through the link provided in a spam that you suspect is "phishing." If you are interested in a website, access it directly through a web browser.