Online spam is any unwanted or malicious file or message that takes place on the Internet.
It has gotten more frequent for every passing year, since the Internet’s 30 years of existence.
The first proof of an unsolicited email was an advertisement found on the ARPANET back in 1978. It promoted a model of computer made by Digital Equipment Corporation.
In the 80s, it escalated to online communities, where news and messages were exchanged at massive speed rate, annoying users which answered with the now adopted term “spam”.
But actually, where did the term comes from?
Everything points to a comical Monthy Python sketch (1970), where a couple tries to have a nice dinner at a café with a menu full of SPAM.
You kinda know what it is, and where it comes from… But do you really know how to differentiate all of it that floats around the world wide web?
Different Types of Online Spam
There are several formats we can catalog as SPAM.
Most of them relate to each other. The biggest difference is the channel where is sent.
A) Email spam – This is by far the most commonplace to see it. While email is a convenient channel to transfer information, it’s also a place where malicious messages and attachments pass round frequently.
Have you seen a chain of emails from a Newsletter you never signed up for?
Most email service providers are great at filtering spam and mark it as such. But fishy marketers and dangerous cybercriminals are getting good at bypassing those filters.
If you ever come to open one and click on the files or links included, there’s a chance to become a victim of phishing or malware.
B) Messaging Spam – Anyone that has used an instant messaging app before, is familiar with spammer’s conduct pattern.
Someone, not related to you promotes fishy products, adult websites, and hidden malware. It can happen sometimes with your friend’s hacked account
Forums, Whatsapp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger… There’s a lot of it on probably every platform out there.
C) Social Media Comment Spam – Fake profiles are everywhere on social media platforms… Strange usernames writing is confusing, broken English… Later promotes a website link.
It’s very easy to do at scale, and they’re more accurate than what you would think… Especially when the profile is portraits a beautiful young lady (do you fall on that?).
Even when the #1 reason for comment for it to exist, is grey/black hat SEO’s trying to get easy backlinks to their site… You better stay away. They might also contain a malware downloader
It’s unethical… It’s dangerous. But after all, you have read, could we argue: Is it Illegal?
Spam itself isn’t illegal. Especially when we refer to the Advertising-intended.
In this case, it’s illegal if you cannot “unsubscribe” from the email list where you’re getting bombarded.
CAN-SPAM law estate: “Recipients have the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.“
Business Lead Lists aren’t illegal either, but using automation tools to scrape such leads from the web seems to be illegal…
So, that means it is the same as an Advertisement? Not really.
To put it simply: Advertisement can be spam, but not all spam is Advertisement.
The biggest factor is if you accepted to receive such promotional messages.
Solicited vs. Unsolicited
Receiving a sequence of emails after you signed up for the latest “Mastermind” online… That’s email marketing.
You consent the company to do it.
On the other hand, have you ever engaged, somewhere, with that “brand” selling male enhancement drugs? Probably not.
They email blast you through 3rd party tools.
And most times, products/services “advertised” trough SPAM are fishy and dishonest.
The scammy offers are endless. So, try to keep them away and do not click the link or spend your time/money on something that won’t deliver what’s promised.
How to Avoid and Protect Yourself from Online Spam
Here are four simple ways to fight it and to protect yourself online:
- Do not publicly share your Username or Email address – It gets easier for cybercriminals to scrape the web to gather as many information as they want. They can use it for all kinds of malicious intentions, but mostly to spam the hell out of you.
What can you do? Again, do not share your data everywhere! But when you do, replace the typical “firstname.lastname@example.org” for “blablabla AT GMAIL dot com” so only humans can read it.
- Do not Click or Download SPAM content – Remember about the filtering I mentioned? This is not accurate 100% of the time, so it’s better if you are aware since the beginning about what to click, and what don’t.
Do not test luck by clicking text hyperlinks, images, or adjunted files.
Spammy messages are related to medicines, drugs, shipping companies packages, bank statements, political movements, global events, charity causes, and so on.
- Don’t Respond to SPAM – Replying to spam emails, messages or comments can mean serious risk for you. Spammers are good at detecting active accounts and addresses, so you become a target, increases chances of malware attack or identity theft.
It’s better if you leave unsolicited messaged without responding. Or report it with your email provider and proceed to delete it.
- Spam Filtering Tools and Anti-virus Software – Cybersecurity programs won’t protect you at all times, but they can definitely block it out of your email box, social media accounts, and website blog. The best out there even include phishing and ransomware protection.
We came to the conclusion that spam is not only annoying but may be dangerous as well.
Luckily, you know how it works now, and what are the several ways to avoid it…
Remember: do not trust everything you see, read, or hear on the internet.
Sadly, this rule tends to fail with smartly infamous spam outreaches.
Then, we confirm that the most effective solution of all is a fully equipped email security settled up…
Avoid losing your assets at any given time, securing peace of mind 24/7.