The Dangers of Outbound Spam


When you think about spam you probably think about the tons of messages that fill your junk mail folder and make their way into your inbox. Despite advances in spam filtering technology and botnet takedowns, spam is still a big problem. Its goal may have changed – these days a spam message may be more likely to try and steal your personal info or infect your computer with malware than it is to sell you something – but it’s still being pumped out by the millions each day. However, there is another type of spam you should be worried about as well – outbound spam.

This spam, which your computer sends out rather than receives, can cause you some real headaches. For starters, it can fill your inbox with bounce back messages and even angry replies from people foolish enough to respond to spam. If your account sends out spam with a malicious link or attachment, or the kind that sounds like an urgent message from you, on vacation/a business trip in a foreign country who’s been robbed and is in desperate need of money, you could find yourself with some annoyed or concerned customers and associates. That’s the best case scenario. The worst case? Your IP blacklisted, possible CAN-SPAM complaints lodged against you, and a damaged reputation.

What can you do to protect yourself? Make sure your mail server is secure and that there are no open relays. Disable port 25, and look for an anti-virus/anti-spam solution that offer real-time detection, scans for and blocks zombie computers, and blocks reverse engineering techniques. Of course it goes without saying your employees should be trained on good security practices and their passwords should be changed every three to six months. An anti-spam solution that blocks links and certain attachments known to be used to deliver malware is also a good idea.

Written by Sue Walsh


  1. Cleo · May 25, 2013

    I can definitely relate to outbound spam. I didn’t know my e-mail was already hacked, and I was already sending malicious links to all my contacts. To make things worse, out of the 3 accounts I had, the one that was compromised was for my work. So imagine the tons of explanations I had to do not only to my colleagues but also to my bosses. Thankfully, they were kind enough to understand my predicament and simply advised me to change my password right away.

  2. Julia · May 28, 2013

    This is more of a job for the IT personnel. But honestly this is one of the reasons why you’re most likely to send outbound spam at home than at work. The latter usually doesn’t have any good security features. Typical e-mail users don’t invest on solutions that fight spam more effectively.

  3. Chad · May 28, 2013

    Wow! Outbound spam is sneaky! And this is why it’s scary! I remember a friend whose email was hacked and used to send outbound spam. It happened earlier this year and it really drove her crazy! It was actually an email that she used when she was working in China. She once told me that their system (she worked in a language school) was hacked despite China’s strict Internet use policies. The email was asking people in the list for $1,000-something to help “her” get out of customs trouble. But when this was sent, she was not anywhere near Asia!

  4. Alice · May 30, 2013

    I think one of the biggest dangers of outbound spam is the damaged reputation. I was almost fired because of it, though I don’t really blame anyone for what had happened. I ended up sending spam to everyone in the building, including my bosses, with a virus along with it. It somehow destroyed a portion of our systems. It’s a good thing I was given another chance simply because I did perform well for them before that circumstance.

  5. Shawn · June 2, 2013

    It happens to a lot of people, Chad. That’s why it’s really important that everyone should update and secure their mail regularly. For example, Gmail has a two-step verification system so you can prevent as much as possible easy hacking or intrusion to your mail. It’s free and quick to set up.

  6. Arnel · June 2, 2013

    We simply have to admit it, though, that there are times when we can’t just prevent outbound spam. For example, when we want to support an organization or a fund-raising campaign, we send information about it to as many friends as we can. However, what we don’t think is we’re actually intruding in their own space since the mail itself is not authorized.

  7. Chad · August 2, 2013

    @Shawn: Yes. While I was aware of this fact before my friend became a victim, I admit that I did not really think of it as a serious matter. I just knew that spam was bad and that anyone could become a victim. I had some anti-malware program installed into both my laptop and desktop, but I never really bothered to check on them regularly. After what happened to my friend, I decided to exercise more diligence in filtering the emails I receive. I also exercise caution when sending emails because I know spammers of every kind are lurking everywhere!

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