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Security Center / Definitions / Spam


Spam You must have seen a spam folder staring at you, typically from the left side of your screen when you access your email account. That spam folder contains a collection of messages asking you to access adult content, use healthcare products, sign up for a wide array of subscriptions, and so on and so forth.

Emails that you don’t want to read but have been sent to you anyway – this is spam.

But not all spam fits the ‘unsolicited email’ category. Among all those advertising emails are also phishing emails and emails with malicious URLs just waiting to unleash malware on your computer.

There are times when such spam emails escape the spam filter to end up in your inbox. Perhaps you just open that email and click on a malicious link. In a best-case scenario, this might lead to you losing personal data. In a worst-case scenario, this leads to cybercriminals infiltrating your organization’s network through your home computer.

Yes, you’re right – both are actually terrible scenarios.

You therefore must be able to stop spam emails, and you can only do that by understanding spam a little better.

What is spam?

No, spam is not Spam, the luncheon meat that so many people love (and equally many people hate). This ‘spam’ takes the form of unwanted digital communication or messages, typically an email. These spam emails interfere with emails that you need to see, and which are important for you.

But spam is not an irritant any more. It has transformed into a full-blown security menace.

The follow-up question to what is spam email naturally is: how do spammers get your email? There are plenty of ways they can do this. The easiest among them is buying an email list. Something else they can do is leverage botnets to use command-and-control servers for email harvesting and distribution.

The spam spectrum

Think of spam as an umbrella term that covers many different types of spam:

  • Marketing spam: This is “harmless” spam that annoys, doesn’t threaten and is usually filtered by the spam blocker in your email software. Also, these emails are relatively easy to spot, even if they escape spam filters.

  • Malware spam: This is the “Thanos” of all spam, because it carries malware. You will be asked to click on a link or download an attachment that will infect your computer with malware. And that’s when things get bad fast.

  • Nigerian prince spam: Received a mail saying a Nigerian prince has left millions of dollars for you in a bank account and all you need to claim these riches is a cash advance? This spam takes many forms, but the common thread that remains the same is – ‘upfront processing fee.’
    Now you might say to yourself, “hey! I am not falling for this scam. This is so obvious.” But you will be surprised to know that a good number of people fall for this social engineering scam. And while we make jokes about badly written spam, the bad guys do get better and more convincing all the time with their writing.

  • ‘Good ‘ol’ phishing spam: Phishing emails are the most dangerous and effective kind of spam, and they are targeting your sensitive information e.g. financial credentials, health care information, etc. These emails disguise themselves as messages coming from a familiar/reputed/trustworthy source. These persuade you to take action by asking you to confirm certain billing details, verify purchases, and such.
    They trick you into sharing information you shouldn’t, which cybercriminals can use to hack into your bank account or even your organization’s network.

But spam is not just limited to emails. You can also come across spam on social media in the form of fake messages clogging your feed, or blog comments, push notifications and more.

Spam can also be those pesky robocalls you receive on your phone. It can include text messages you receive asking you to buy products that profess to change your life. This is the big bad world of mobile spam.

Spam, is everywhere, and you need to stay protected. Spammers are using most available communication channels to send spam your way.

How to stop spam emails – Essential tips

You can block spam emails by doing a few simple things right:

  • Stop responding to spam. Respond to one spam email and set yourself up to receive more junk emails.

  • While sharing your email account to sign up for online services or accounts, make sure you deselect all the other account/service-related choices that are chosen by default.

  • Learn to identify spam emails, especially phishing emails. Don’t open emails that appear to have come from illegitimate email IDs.

  • Have two email addresses; use your secondary email address to sign up for shopping services, chat rooms, and more.

  • Make sure to tun on your email account’s spam filter and ensure your macros aren’t on by default.

  • Install the best cybersecurity solution with advanced anti-spam engine on your PC/Mac such as Sophos Home

Sophos Home Free includes a free 30-day trial of Premium plus an immediate Advanced Malware Removal to thoroughly clean your computer of any current malware infections.

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