Security

Step-By-Step: Teach end users how to keep spam out of the inbox

Discover the best way to teach end users about spam.


Let’s face it. Even though no one likes receiving spam (unsolicited commercial e-mail), deleting spam is still a part of almost any Internet user’s daily routine. Unfortunately, the problem only seems to be getting worse.

What can IT trainers do about spam? Whenever you’re training beginning e-mail users, make sure you cover these fundamental rules to help your students avoid spam.

Rule #1: Maintain two separate e-mail addresses
You should have one e-mail address that you give out only to close friends and relatives—anyone with whom you would have personal communication. Then establish another e-mail address with a provider such as Hotmail or some other online account, and use that address every time you fill out a form on the Web that asks for an e-mail address.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that your private e-mail address won’t get out. If one of your friends or relatives includes you in a long cc list, someone else in the cc list could disseminate your e-mail address.

Rule #2: Don’t buy from a spam ad
This rule should be a given, but it’s important to underscore this point to new Internet citizens. Spammers will only continue to spam as long as it is profitable. By teaching your students to refuse to purchase any items that are advertised in spam, then eventually it will no longer be profitable.

Rule #3. Don’t even respond to it!
Never, ever respond to a spam. Responding to spam, whether to a “remove” address or otherwise will only worsen the problem. Responding to spam only tells the spammer that your address is a valid e-mail address that accepts spam. Don’t expect to get removed from any lists that way.

Rule #4. Turn off cookies
Many of you will quarrel with this rule, because legitimate Web businesses (like TechRepublic) use cookie technology to save customers time and to serve them better. But browser cookies have a dark side. Some unscrupulous businesses use them to obtain information from you when you visit their Web site.

You and your students can minimize the chances of your e-mail address being broadcast to every Web site you visit by turning your browser cookies off, or at least making your browser ask for confirmation before accepting cookies.

Rule #5: Report spam to your ISP
Most ISPs have strict anti-spam policies. Your students should report spammers to their ISPs. In many cases, there is a good chance that the account used by the spammer to get on the Internet will be disabled by the ISP.
As a last resort, you can fight spam with filtering software. Personally, I am not a fan of filtering software. In many cases, it’s simply too strict and winds up blocking personal e-mails that you really do want to receive. However, when you’re teaching end users how to use an e-mail client, you should show them how to activate filtering and sender-blocking options—just in case they need them.
Support anti-spam legislation
Visit the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email for information on how you can help support anti-spam legislation. Unfortunately, contrary to what many spam e-mails claim, there is no current legislation in place to control spam. Do your part and write your congressmen and congresswomen to support anti-spam legislation.

Where to complain
Unfortunately, figuring out how and where to complain about spam can be a difficult task. I recommend SpamCop. After jumping through a few hoops to register, SpamCop provides a simple interface for reporting spam to ISPs. SpamCop also provides a service for a few dollars a year that will let you take advantage of their extensive spam-filtering software.
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