Spam is any unsolicited and unwanted electronic message distributed over the Internet.
When most people hear of spam, they either think of the luncheon meat or of unsolicited emails filling their inbox. While spam email messages are common, email is far from the only medium used by spammers.
- Email: Experts estimate that spam email messages make up more than half of all of the email in the world. Email spam is often used to distribute trojan horse malware, to trick users into divulging private information by linking to a fake web form, to commit money-transfer fraud, or to increase traffic to e-commerce sites.
- Forum spam: Forum spam consists of advertisement-style posts made to forums. The posts have the dual purpose of increasing the number of links that point to the advertised site, as well as to drive traffic from the forum to the advertised site. Virtually all forums have policies in place prohibiting this type of activity, but on poorly moderated sites forum spam is common.
- Text messages: Spam messages sent by text message often encourage the receiver to download an application, thereby incurring fees, or visit a particular website.
- Social networks: Fake user accounts are used to spread spam messages across all social networks. The intent of spreading these messages is to increase traffic to the site being advertised in the spam post.
- Blog, wiki, and website comments: Website comment systems are frequent targets for spam. Messages posted in the comments section of blogs and other websites, like forum posts, serve the dual purposes of increasing the number of links that point to the advertised site, as well as driving traffic to the advertised site.
- Video sharing sites: Spam videos uploaded to sites like YouTube often appear to be about an interesting topic but instead try to get the viewer to click on deceptively titled links which lead to external websites.
Also See: Tips to Stop Spam
Frequently Asked Questions
Is anyone working to reduce spam?
Internet service providers, email service providers, webmasters, and government organizations are all working to reduce the prevalence of spam. Spam has a very real financial cost to websites, email service providers, and ISPs. There are laws on the books in many countries that make spamming illegal, and there have been several instances of prominent spammers who have been caught and tried receiving hefty fines and jail time.
Who is behind all of the spam email that I get?
There are thousand of spammers located all around the globe. However, according to Spamhaus, 80% of all spam worldwide can be accounted for by the activity of just 100 spam organizations, consisting of between 300 and 500 individual spammers.
Has anyone ever faced any legal penalties for sending spam?
There have been several instances where spammers have received financial penalties in excess of $10 million and jail sentences for terms longer than 5 years.
Why do spammers send spam? What are they hoping to accomplish?
Spam is typically used to accomplish one or more of the following purposes:
- To build a botnet through the distribution of trojan horses and other malware.
- To increase sales at an ecommerce site – quite often one dealing in counterfeit pharmaceuticals or fake name-brand goods.
- To commit identify theft.
- To defraud others out of money through a variety of money-transfer and fake investment scams.