Let’s Talk About Spam – Why Should I Care?

One of the problems many people have when dealing with spam, phishing, and malware, is that they don’t really understand why they should care. Spam seems like a problem for companies to deal with, and not something an individual should even care about. Our goal with today’s post is to help you individuals to understand just why you should care about spam, phishing, and malware.

 

When spam hits your mailbox, it’s usually just annoying, that is, as long as you can recognize it for what it is. Spam is like those late night infomercials, the third class fliers and circulars that hit your real mailbox, or the bulletin boards along the highways. They all are trying to get you to part with your hard-earned money, and they will do just about anything they can to convince you to spend. If they succeed; if you go ahead and click the link and fill out the form to make a purchase, the best you can hope for is that you will continue to receive even more spam in your inbox, since you are now considered a “live one”. At worst, you may have provided your personal information, including your credit card details, to a malicious individual whose goal is to rip you off.

 

Often it is very difficult to tell the difference between spam, and the more dangerous phishing message. Both are intended to get you to click on a link and submit your personal information with the goal of stealing from you. Whether what they want to steal is simply your contact information for more targeted marketing, or your financial details so they can steal money, is not something you want to put to the test. People who fall victim to phishing attacks can lose more than a few dollars. Their credit rating can be damaged, and identity theft is something that can cause problems for years.

 

Malware can be the worst of the lot, and have the most immediate impact. Malware is any kind of software that is designed to do something you don’t want it to. There are several different names for malware, including virus, Trojan, and worm, and there are different ways your computer can become infected. Opening attachments in emails is the most common way, but often times your computer can become infected when you visit a website built to host malware. Spam and phishing messages don’t have to include attachments to infect your computer. The links they include are often to web pages that include malware. Clicking one of those links can be as bad as opening an attachment. And what happens when your computer is infected with malware?

 

If you’re lucky, all it means is that your computer will now start sending spam out to your friends, your family, your co-workers, and a million perfect strangers. If you are not as lucky, it will start searching your computer for financial information like credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and other juicy bits of information. Or maybe it will start recording your every key stroke, grabbing your passwords and sending them on to the authors of the malware. You really don’t want them to be able to log onto your bank, do you?

 

Most credit and debit cards offer limitations on liability from fraudulent transactions. Purchasing online from reputable companies is safe and secure, and not something you should worry about. However, the amount of effort you may have to go through to file a claim when you fall victim to a scheme is enough that you must take this threat seriously. Your credit rating, your identity, and your bank account could all be at risk should you click on one of the links in a spam or phishing message thinking “what’s the worst that could happen?” The worst can be very bad indeed.


Written by Casper Manes

I currently work as a Senior Messaging Consultant for one of the premier consulting firms in the world, I cut my teeth on Exchange 5.0, and have worked with every version of Microsoft’s awesome email package since then, as well as MHS, Sendmail, and MailEnable systems. I've written dozens of articles on behalf of my past employers, their partners, and others, and I finally decided to embrace blogging and social media, so please follow me on Twitter @caspermanes if you enjoy my posts.

0 Comments

  1. Therese Jayme · April 28, 2012

    This is a great article for me! I have been meaning to ask for a topic that highlights every user to be aware and knowledgeable of the pros and cons when going online. Thank you for emphasizing that every individual should take part in putting a stop to spam, malware and phishing sites. As what they say, big things come from small pockets. This is why we should not patronize those spam emails and fictitious links when we receive them in our mailboxes. And this has to start in ourselves.

    Don’t let any stranger take away your personal information without even knowing. Let’s start deleting spam emails now!

  2. Jen Mainer · April 29, 2012

    Now you scared me.

    Now the question becomes, how do we protect ourselves further from all those spam? Any particular email provider who is better at filtering spam?

    What are the characteristics of a site that is reliable?

    I am particularly worried about the malware that will register every keystroke. Any software I could install that would detect and remove that?

    Do you have statistics of those who were victims of identity theft because of wrong information sent through spam?

    And if we fall victim to it, what can we do to trace and retrieve our identity back? What are the statistics of people persecuted and convicted for stealing and using other people’s info? What’s the maximum penalty, by the way?

  3. Erik Seal · April 30, 2012

    Hello, I had a question about the keystroke logging type of malware. Is it possible to dupe these by deliberately typing in wrong characters in a password and then deleting them by clicking back (so say if my password was baseball, I would type basketball, then click my cursor back to delete the k and the t)?

  4. Mike · July 12, 2013

    Honestly, who the hell cares about email that hits your inbox selling as seen on tv products or whatever else – coupons etc. Who cares? That’s not spam, it’s junk mail. Not harming anybody or stealing/phishing.

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