Spam, or unsolicited bulk email, is a
common annoyance on the Internet today. WHOI community members
have expressed to CIS concerns that the amount of spam they're
receiving is growing, and we'd like to take this chance
to offer some guidelines for dealing with this bothersome
abuse of the Internet's email facility.
Don't reply directly to spam.
In general, it is a bad idea to respond directly
to spam messages. Most spam is forged,
meaning that the address it appears to be from is not the
actual address of the person sending it. Spam may appear
to be sent from an address which is entirely bogus (nonexistent),
or from an address of an unrelated third party. In those
few cases where spammers use their own addresses, responding
to spam merely indicates to them that you receive and read
it -- so they will send more.
A related guideline: Many spammers include in their messages
a line like this: "To be removed from this mailing list,
email email@example.com." In general, it
is not a good idea to send email to "remove me" addresses.
While legitimate mailing lists do respect your desire to
be removed, spammers do not. They use your removal request
as a confirmation that your address is actively read, and
thus send you more spam.
Do report spam.
Sending spam is a violation of the terms of service of
all legitimate Internet service providers. While
not every ISP is as responsive as it should be to reports
of spam, many will take steps to remove spammers from their
networks if they are reported. You can report spammers yourself
(by learning to read email headers), or use a service such
as SpamCop to report it automatically.
If you are receiving repeated spam from a particular sender,
or with a particular subject line or other common feature,
WHOI CIS can block it at the mail server. This will protect
you from further spam -- and also cut down on the spam problem
for other WHOInet users.
How to report spam to CIS:
- Turn on full headers in your email
reader. In Netscape Messenger, select the menu option
View->Headers->All. If you don't use Netscape,
take a look at this
SpamCop page for instructions for over 20 different
- If you can, forward the message as an attachment.
Some mail clients will mangle your message if you forward
it "inline". In Netscape, select the menu option Message->Forward As->Attachment.
Note that forwarding as an attachment is not always a
good idea for day-to-day use, but it helps us when dealing
- Forward to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please don't send spam to Helpdesk or to individual CIS
technicians. The email@example.com address has been set up
to deal especially with spam.
Don't do business with spammers.
Spamming is a dishonest tactic, and "businesses" who spam
are generally not honest businesses. Many are outright frauds,
selling products which do not even distantly live up to
their claims. Some are fly-by-nights which have no product
at all -- they take your money and run.
Even if a business which spams is otherwise legitimate,
buying from it will encourage it to spam more. Several large
mainstream businesses have tried spamming as a marketing
tactic and rejected it after complaints and boycotts have
made it clear that it is unacceptable. If spamming repels
more customers than it attracts, then legitimate businesses
will reject it.
Do protect your mail client.
Recently, spammers have started taking advantage of security
weaknesses in graphical mail clients like Netscape Messenger
and Microsoft Outlook. Because these programs act like Web
bugs to track the recipients of spam. With this information,
spammers can confirm that you have read their messages,
validating your email address as a target for future spam.
In the Netscape preferences, select the Advanced
this setting will be grayed out as redundant.)
It is also a good idea to disable the automatic
display of attachments, since attachments can bear
hostile code or Web-bug references. To do this in Netscape,
uncheck the menu option View->View Attachments Inline.
Other mail clients may have similar settings; consult
the documentation for details.
We don't expect WHOInet users will have any problem with
this item! Nevertheless, we mention it for completeness,
and for anyone else who may have come across this page.
Spamming is not just rude. It is a
criminal offense in many states, and spammers have been
prosecuted or held civilly liable for their abuses many
times. Although Massachusetts does not (yet) have laws against
spam, you can be prosecuted in Washington or West Virginia
(among other states) if you send spam into those
states. Even in states that do not have specific anti-spam
laws, particularly abusive spammers have been held liable
for trespass and computer crimes.
Some Quick FAQs:
Why is spam unlawful, when "junk mail" (via paper
mail) is legal? When a business sends junk paper
mail to you, that business pays for the paper, the printing,
and the delivery of its message. But when a spammer sends
spam to your WHOI email account, WHOI pays a large portion
of the costs of delivery: it takes up our network bandwidth
and disk space. In effect the spammer steals these resources
from us, driving up costs.
Why is it called "spam"? This popular
term, which has been applied to various sorts of network
abuse, has a curious history. Brad Templeton of ClariNet
fame has collected a
history of the word "spam" and of various sorts of spamming.
Why report spam instead of deleting it?
For the same reason you should report harassment or any
other abuse: if you ignore it, it won't go away.
Reporting spammers to ISPs isn't annoying the ISPs; it's
helping them to enforce their policies and be good Internet
Where can I find out more? There are
lots of resources on the Web for fighting spam. Scott
Mueller's spam.abuse.net is a good start for beginners.