30 Days 50 people 120,000 spam emails

A recent experiment by McAfee underlines just how serious the malware threat is, if you don’t take sensible precautions online.

In May 2008, 50 individuals around the world embarked upon The McAfee S.P.A.M. Experiment. McAfee armed these brave volunteers with new laptops and email addresses then invited them to surf the web unprotected for 30 days to discover how much spam they would attract and what the effects would be, both short lived and long term.

Each day, these intrepid participants opened their email with no idea of what they would encounter—and then they recorded their experiences.

How much did they get spammed and how drastic were the effects?

Read what they discovered in the The Global SPAM Diaries.

The report ends with some good tips for avoiding spam:

1. Do not post your email address on the Internet.

2. Check to see if your email address is visible to spammers by typing it into a Web search engine such as Google. If your email address is posted to any Web sites or newsgroups, remove it if possible to help reduce how much spam you receive.

3. Many ISPs also offer free spam filtering. If this is available, enable it. Report missed spam to your ISP, as it helps reduce how much spam you and other members of the same ISP receive. If your ISP does not offer spam filtering, use anti-spam software to reduce the amount of spam delivered to your inbox.

4. When filling in Web forms, check the site’s privacy policy to ensure it will not be sold or passed on to other companies. There may be a checkbox to opt out of third party mailings. Consider opting out to receive less opt-in email.

5. Never respond to spam. If you reply, even to request removing your email address from the mailing list, you are confirming that your email address is valid and the spam has been successfully delivered to your inbox, not filtered by a spam filter, that you opened the message, read the contents, and responded to the spammer. Lists of confirmed email addresses are more valuable to spammers than unconfirmed lists, and they are frequently bought and sold by spammers.

6. Do not open spam messages wherever possible. Frequently spam messages include “Web beacons” enabling the spammer to determine how many, or which email addresses have received and opened the message. Or use an email client that does not automatically load remote graphic images, such as the most recent versions of Outlook® and Thunderbird.

7. Do not click on the links in spam messages, including unsubscribe links. These frequently contain a code that identifies the email address of the recipient, and can confirm the spam has been delivered and that you responded.

8. Never buy any goods from spammers. The spammers rely on very small percentages of people responding to spam and buying goods. If spamming becomes unprofitable and takes lots of effort for little return, spammers have less incentive to continue spamming. Would you risk giving your credit card details to an unknown, unreputable source?

9. Make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date. Many viruses and trojans scan the hard disk for email addresses to send spam and viruses. Avoid spamming your colleagues by keeping your anti-virus software up to date.

10. Never respond to email requests to validate or confirm any of your account details. Your bank, credit card company, eBay, Paypal, etc., already have your account details, so would not need you to validate them. If you are unsure if a request for personal information from a company is legitimate, contact the company directly or type the Web site URL directly into your browser. Do not click on the links in the email, as they may be links to phishing Web sites.

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