Tuesday, 28 April 2009

How does spam find it's way into your inbox?

Having recently been plagued with a swathe of spam, I decided to investigate how and why I was receiving these unwelcome messages.

People who send spam - spammers - collect email addresses in different ways. One way is by good old fashioned guesswork. This is more high-tech than it sounds, using specially developed software to generate likely email addresses by putting together known forenames and surnames, often using webmail domains such as @hotmail.co.uk. Another type of software beloved of spammers uses technology similar to that used by search engines. Instead of picking out keywords, it scours the web for email addresses posted in newsgroups and on websites. They may also buy email address lists from other spammers, or from unscrupulous companies that misappropriate personal information users provide online when they sign up for a service. This is illegal in the UK but proving where a spammer obtained an address is nigh-on impossible!

Spam often contains offensive material and images and can contribute to online fraud, including phishing scams (where an email that appears to have been sent from the receipient's bank, for instance, asks them to "confirm" their account number or email). To effectively identify and protect yourself from spam, it is imortant to know why it is sent and what its hallmarks are. Often they try to sell you something fairly improbable and beware of emails from senders you don't recognise offering things like discounted medication or cheap software!

Some spam messages appear to be complete gobbledegook and are often little more than strings of random words that convey no coherent message. This is because some spam is sent to check if your email address is real and in use. These typically contain a tiny image embedded somewhere in the body of the message that isn't visible to the recipient. The image is stored on the spammer's website and when the message is opened or viewed in the preview pane of an email application, that email application visits the website to retrieve the image. This tells the spammer the message sent to your email address has been viewed and the address is active. This is valuable to the spammer, eithe to use or to sell on to other spammers.

It is also possible to harvest email addresses from email chain letters. As well as emails promising luck if you send them to five friends within the hour, there are those promising a free iPod if you forward them to 10 people, as well as those warning of fictitious viruses and improbable personal safety warnings. As the forwarded email addresses become embedded in the email's history, this will provide a bumper crop for the spammer behind it.

How to spot spam

Identifying spam amongst the legitimate emails can be quite difficult because spammers commonly use a technique known as "spoofing", to retain their anonymity. Spoofing makes it appear that an email has been sent from a completely different email address to the one it has really been sent from. The spammer changes the information attached to the email - called the header - that shows where it originated from, to make it look like the email has been sent by someone else. Sometimes the email address is non-existent, but sometimes the spammer will have guessed at an email address that is actually in use. The first time the real owner of the email address discovers this is when they receive irate messages from strangers demanding that they stop spamming them.

Be aware that it's not just the name at the beginning of an email address - the John.Smith bit - that can be spoofed. Looking for a credible or recognised domain - the bit after the '@' - in the From: line of an email isn't enough to guarantee its authenticity. Spammers are also able to spoof domains, which is why in a phising scam, the fraudster can pose as a company the recipient does business with.

There are, however, various hallmarks of spam emails that can be used collectively to help identify spam. In unsophisticated cases, the email address in the From: field is often a bit of a mess, containing an email address that is often just a random string of letter and numbers folowed by a webmail domain, eg
sf3ffwr23w@hotmail.com. Also, look out for email addresses that appear to have been sent from different email addresses, but have identical subject lines or ones that make no sense. While the majority of email programs have built-in spam blockers, there will be the odd piece of digital dirt that repeatedly breaches security and makes it into your inbox. In this case, the most effective means of prevention is to block emails arriving from a specific sender or domain. See how to do this.

How to filter your email.

The Phenomenon of Twitter

When I first noticed the presence of Twitter on the web, it was via an interest I had in a particular blog - the author added "follow me on Twitter", and out of curiosity I clicked on the link, read her profile and the few postings displayed at the time. My immediate thought was "what rubbish, it will never catch on" and immediately forgot all about it!

BUT.... there are already believed to be around 12 million Twitters at the time of writing, and I am one of them - now an incurable addict!

So What is Twitter and How Does it Work?

At its simplest, Twitter allows users to do two things: post short messages about what they are doing, and to read other users' updates. It's easy to set up a Twitter account and it's free. It's best to use your real name so people you know can find you easily.

Accounts can be made private so only friends the user has authorised can see them - this is a great way to collaborate with colleagues on a project and keep in touch in a more immediate way than by, say email. Links can be included to documents and/or project workspaces. You can also choose to go public so you can be found and generate a list of followers you don't know as well as those that you do.

If you find friends on the service then you can choose to follow them and you will be shown their updates as they happen. When someone decides to follow you, an email is sent to the address you registered to let you know. Users can block people if they don't want them as a follower.

Like most social networking sites, the settings page lets users customise the look of the profile page by changing the background picture or adding a photo.

For users of Twitter one of the most appealing features is the range of ways updates can be posted and received. Updates can be posted from a mobile phone and Twitter users can sign up to receive updates from people they are following via RSS feeds, social networking sites such as Facebook and various widget applications, such as Twidget.

Despite the musings often being completely insignificant, and sometimes even banal, Twitter has been credited by some as providing an essential tool in breaking news. It is argued that Twitter has allowed journalists to pick up on stories they have have had to wait for on the news wires. The site was credited with being the first to break the news about the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York, after a passenger on a nearby ferry posted a picture.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Are you guilty of "Death by Powerpoint"?

The term "Death by Powerpoint" denotes a presentation that has the effect of killing audience interest, instead of inviting lively curiosity: the presentation induces boredom and drowsiness, and instead of communicating key messages, it may leave the audience decidedly unattentive, and looking forward to the coffee break! Where the presenter hopes for a healthy response to his delivery, in reality, apathy and disinterest prevail in the auditorium.

Perhaps you have a presentation that's overly busy, filled with complex charts and diagrams, and crammed with lots of bulleted text? It’s sad to say, that this is the state of a great number of today’s presentations, but many people simply don't know how else to present their message.

Read more ....

Need help with a presentation? Contact: info@theawaypa.eu or telephone 08450 527565.
Visit us at: http://www.theawaypa.eu

Saturday, 18 April 2009

A study into spam has blamed it for the production of more than 33bn kilowatt-hours of energy every year, enough to power more than 2.4m homes.

Did you know, the Carbon Footprint of e-mail Spam report estimated that 62 trillion spam emails are sent globally every year.

This amounts to emissions of more than 17 million tons of CO2, the research by climate consultants ICF International and anti-virus firm McAfee found.

Searching for legitimate e-mails and deleting spam used some 80% of energy.

The study found that the average business user generates 131kg of CO2 every year, of which 22% is related to spam.

Unwanted traffic

ICF say that spam filtering would reduce unwanted spam by 75%, the equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars off the road.

However, the ICF goes on to say that while spam filtering is effective in reducing energy waste, fighting it at the source is far better.

The Spam Report follows only a few days after Symantec's bi-annual Internet Security Threat report, which found that spam had increased by 192%, with bot networks responsible for approximately 90% of all spam e-mail.

The vast majority of spam is sent via botnets.

Author: The Away PA