The creators of DECSYSTEM-20, a mainframe computer running a proto-operating system, sent out the first spam email to ARPANET users on May 1, 1978. What they perceived as a clever and modern approach to advertising, however, earned them instant and widespread infamy. In fact, the reaction was so severely negative that no one else created spam for the next 15 years. Then, between 1993 and 1996, spam bloomed on the newborn internet so aggressively that spam protection became a mandatory feature on all email accounts.
Today, spam remains a serious but manageable problem. Protecting a company and its users from spam emails is crucial for keeping computers and data safe. Likewise, to get around the ever more sophisticated attempts to keep it out of inboxes, spam itself is also evolving. Read on to learn about the latest breeds of spam, and how best to keep a business inbox safe from the risks it creates.
The Many Colors of Spam Emails
There are many different types of spam, ranging in the degrees of annoyance and intent of harm. Anyone who has ever owned an email—currently some 3.8 billion people—has experienced the displeasure of finding it in their inbox. Spam may take the form of:
- Harmless but annoying advertisements from unscrupulous marketers.
- Subscriptions for which users initially signed up but then started receiving more than expected.
- Obvious scams from individuals claiming to be wealthy heirs or princes.
- Emails with virus attachments sent to specific users or as a result of another person or company getting hacked.
- Phishing and spoofing attacks from malicious actors targeting users for their login credentials or other sensitive information.
Spam may be easy to spot or—in the case of phishing emails—very difficult to identify. Likewise, phishing doesn’t always target victims directly. Consider the 2013 example of Target. A phishing ring targeted one of its vendors who had access to Target’s customer records. This breach, which affected 41 million retail cards, cost Target $118.5 million in fines.
That’s why it’s critical to develop infrastructure specifically meant to address it and to maximize the security of email accounts, devices, and the company’s servers.
How to Prevent Spam Emails
Many ways exist to prevent spam from reaching a workplace email. Consider implementing the following strategies:
1. Correctly configure strong spam filters
Both ISPs and email service providers have spam filters for their services. However, these filters can be further configured to maximize the amount of protection they provide. Likewise, with some internal emails, it may be possible to restrict incoming emails to known senders from vendors, clients, and other employees. This significantly reduces the chance that harmful spam will make it there.
2. Invest in a firewall for spam
A spam firewall protects mail servers from receiving spam, much in the same way that a regular firewall prevents viruses from reaching computer systems. Firewalls may be either physical or cloud-based services which help to keep a company email safe.
3. Be discerning about where emails are given
What seems to be a useful or interesting subscription may turn out to be more than expected. Likewise, despite attempts such as the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, many unscrupulous companies exist who will gladly sell emails to questionable buyers. Protect an email address by being cautious about where it’s given and to whom. And never use a work email for any personal services (shopping sites, social media, etc.)!
4. Make spam protection part of the company’s broader cybersecurity strategy
The case of Target shows how spam protection works best when it occurs alongside other forms of cybersecurity. For instance, antivirus software works in tandem with spam protection to identify hazardous attachments before they’re downloaded. It also can block suspicious activity on a server before any damage is done. Therefore, consider spam protection when developing the company’s cybersecurity strategy and take advantage of the way various tools complement one another.
5. Train staff on spam identification
These days, it’s all too easy to accidentally click on an attachment with a virus or phishing email which looks like the real thing. Phishing emails take many forms, from fake PayPal notifications to sites which mimic Google’s login screen. These sites trick users into entering their credentials. Once given, a hacker has their meal ticket to the company’s information.
Train staff on how to identify spam emails and to be vigilant. Better yet, make sure they know the proper login portals and the policies which the company will follow to ask for credentials.
How CDS Can Help with Spam Protection
Spam isn’t just annoying—it’s often downright dangerous. Companies need to protect themselves against it to avoid unwittingly giving cybercriminals access to their most valuable information. CDS can help with that. Solutions and strategies will vary according to a company’s specific infrastructure. However, they may include:
- Security measures using third-party spam protection from partners such as Barracuda, Cisco or Webroot.
- Development of a holistic cybersecurity strategy which includes spam protection.
- Managed services which help monitor potential threats.
Stop Spam Emails Today
Since the mid-1990s, internet users have been forced to deal with the dreaded spam email. However, spam protection has come a long way. Today, businesses no longer have to fear the presence of spammers or hackers in an inbox. There are many strategies to reduce and eliminate spam—CDS can help.
Are you looking for better spam protection? CDS provides premier cybersecurity solutions for email spam protection and digital infrastructure. Contact us today to get started.