Fighting Spam in your inbox, server or website

Everyone favourite – spam! For many it’s a minor inconvenience, something to do first thing in the morning over a hot cup of coffee: clearing out your inbox. But, spam has a more malicious side as well. Many spam emails can be potentially dangerous, and leveraged to trick people into giving away personal information (known as phishing), prompting for downloads (viruses), or simply bulk advertising.

Some figures tell us that spam makes up a huge amount of email traffic (more than 50%!) – an outrageous number, far from what the good intentioned pioneers of the internet thought we would be doing with it. This this bulk of garbage data travels across networks, from server to server, to hard drive space on your computers, and there is a real cost there – processing power, hard drive space, and network load.

But why, one would wonder, do spammers even bother? There’s spam filters out there, almost every mail server has one, the standards are getting higher and punishments more severe, and if one does land in someones inbox it’s likely in a spam folder, and even there, who’s likely to actually CLICK on it? Well… the short answer is enough people do, if a bot can churn out a hundred thousand emails in a day, they only need a microscopic click rate to get at least some benefit out of it. Most spam comes from someone else’s server that a hacker has broken in to, offloading the penalties to legitimate individuals and businesses.

And those punishments are SEVERE. They’re quick to act – short fused if you will – a website or mail server caught sending spam can be blacklisted in under a day. Their outgoing mail reputation can nosedive almost overnight, and it can days, days or even weeks to recover.

Quality of mail, and the overall spamminess of a website or mail server is something that IS monitored by many agencies and services online. In aggregate, these services provide information to other mail servers about who has been naughty and who has been nice (keeping in mind the naughty list is probably full of legitimate folks caught in a bad situation). These services include blacklists, reputation monitors, and even internal network logic or firewalls.

Now that we’re a little more up to speed on what spam is, how it works, and the ongoing fight against it, let’s address the real reasons you might be reading this:

  1. I’m receiving a LOT of spam to my inbox
  2. My website’s contact form is getting spam submissions
  3. My website or server is compromised and sending spam
  4. How do I prevent my website from being compromised?
  5. How do I recover from being blacklisted?
  6. How do I monitor my sending reputation?