Think You Know How Spammers Work?

spammerSpam has been around for quite a while; and as a result people are familiar with some of the more commonly known aspects surrounding spam.

For example, most people are aware that spammers use networks of infected zombie computers to send millions of emails. Likewise, it is commonly known that spammers not only buy email address lists, but they use harvesting software to scrape addresses that can be found on the web.

Having an understanding about things like these help fight against spam. By keeping your work email address out of harm’s way and by making sure your computer isn’t guilty of helping out the spammers you are helping the overall effort.

But there are some things that might surprise you when it comes to spam. Knowing some of these things that have been discovered about how spammers operate can help you even more when it comes to keeping junk mail out of your inbox.

People can add your address to spammers’ lists

There is software out there that allows people who are angry with you to add your email address to hundreds of mailing lists. The result, you are inundated with marketing messages from different products, financial services, religious groups and other lists that don’t require a double opt-in process.

These applications are usually web based and only require the person to provide the name and email address of their victim. Once this is done the email address is automatically added to as many known spammer lists as possible. The person who adds your email does not benefit in any way other than they receive some type of maladjusted satisfaction from getting even or playing a cruel joke.

Spammers hide text in emails

You may be wondering why they would hide their content, after all the purpose of spam is to get their message in front of as many people as possible right?

Well, anti-spam filters know this and one of the ways these solutions try to stop spam is by looking for key words and phrases in the email. If the word or phrase are a significant portion of the message’s content it is flagged as spam. Hiding innocuous words in the email message doesn’t make the email look like obvious spam, but it does dilute the ratio of known spam keywords. When the message is seen as having enough content that is not frequently used by spammers the message has a greater chance at slipping past the anti-spam filter. This is why it is so important that your anti-spam solution rely on more than one technology to identify malicious email messages. The spammers are always looking for a way around these technologies so it is important to have multiple layers of defense.

Spammers sometimes make their emails look like spam

In a recent story on NPR’s Digital Life, Neal Conan’s guest Finn Brunton made an interesting comment supporting the idea that by making spam emails obviously fraudulent spammers are able to weed out those who are more skeptical. Therefore they catch the interest of people who are extremely gullible and more likely to fall for their scams.

Conversely, the bad guys know how to make their emails look legitimate as well. If they are using phishing tactics to trick a potential victim then they have to take a more careful approach to make their emails look as real as possible so that the recipient believes it is real.

Spammers are always going to use underhanded tricks to beat the systems you have in place to keep their emails from reaching your inbox. It’s their job and many of them are very good at what they do. This is why it is so imperative that your organization do its homework before choosing an anti-spam solution that can best fit their needs. Knowing how spammers operate can equip you with the knowledge to ask the right questions when making a choice about email security solutions. Without some information at hand, you will be left to hope that whatever anti-spam solution you have in place will be good enough.

Written by Jeff


  1. Derek John · June 30, 2013

    It is scary to think that people can add you to a spammer’s list by simply typing in your name and email address. This is why we should carefully choose whom we should trust with our email information. We should not just hand it out to anybody – unless we want to be bombarded by useless, unwanted and dangerous mail! As spammers are constantly trying to find ways to beat anti-spam systems, we should also never stop coming up with ways to counter them. Staying up-to-date is the only way to stay safe at from these scammers at all times!

Leave A Reply