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Web Hosting and Spam Protection

In a modest victory in the effort to rid our inboxes of unsolicited email, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently announced successfully shutting down the world's largest spam operation. The spammers were sophisticated both technologically and financially, operating simultaneously from multiple locations around the globe.

According to a report published by the New York Times, the group was sending out ''extraordinary amounts of spam''. Richard Cox, Chief Information Officer at SpamHaus, a nonprofit antispam research group is quoted as saying, ''This is pretty major. At one point these guys delivered up to one third of all spam.''

Think about that for a second - one third of all spam. At one point, authorities estimate that the spammers were sending out 10 billion email messages each day. That's billion with a 'b'. How on earth were these criminals even able to reach that type of spam email volume? By creating a global network of hijacked computers infected with malicious software. These 'zombie' computers were often delivering spam without the knowledge of their owners. According to the authorities the network was as large as 35,000 computers sending spam in concert.

What would motivate a criminal ring to go to all that trouble to send out emails? Money. According to the Federal Trade Commission investigators who investigated the group's finances, the spam ring cleared $400,000 in Visa charges in just one month. The products were herbal supplements including weight loss pills, knock off prescription drugs from India, and products that promised to increase the size of a certain male appendage.

Some estimates attribute spam for up to 90 percent of all emails sent. Throughout the history of the Internet, spam blocking technology has emerged to detect and blog unwanted emails. The spammers, however, have been incredibly resourceful in creating mechanisms to circumvent even the most robust anti spam software. This ever escalating 'arms race' of spam has caught businesses and consumers in the middle. So how best to protect your business and your inbox from spam? Compare Web Hosts asked the experts to weigh in and give us their opinions on how to win the spam battle. Here's what they had to say.

George Roberts, CEO at Interjuncture Corp., which provides the Easy Antispam email protection service suggested these tips on reducing unsolicited email, ''One of the easiest things to do to reduce the amount of spam you receive is to not publish your email address publicly on the web. Many spammers scrape email addresses from websites to include in their database. In my view, it's best to let an email security service provider block all unwanted mail before it even hits your network.''

Regarding emails that look legitimate but may originate from a malicious source Mr. Roberts added, ''The best way to protect yourself against spoof and phishing emails is to not click links directly from emails. It is much better to go directly to the website of the business purportedly sending the email to determine whether the message sent was legitimate.''

Hans Kind, CEO with FlyingServers International added these thoughts, ''Use a good spam filter, either software or hardware based. Protect your e-mail address by not providing an email address on any user forums or other online community sites. If you need to provide a valid email address, either use a non-business email address, or if you are able to create multiple email addresses, create a specific email address for that forum or community.''

Daniel Foster with budget hosting firm 34sp.com had these tips, ''Make sure your antivirus and antispam software is up to date and kept current. You should also have an email package which includes spam and virus filtering from your provider, so that you never end up getting spam in the first place. For unwanted e-mails from known contacts, most e-mail clients support blacklisting. This will allow you to add the sender's address to a list and will stop you receiving any e-mail from them.''

Expert on intrusion detection, network security for web hosting, and email security, Jim Garrity, serves with dedicated server provider HostMySite.com as Director of Infrastructure. Mr. Garrity provided the following tips to consider, ''I would take a two pronged approach to protecting yourself against spam as outlined below.

Step 1.) I would look at commercial Spam filtering services like Google's Postini, Barracuda Spam Firewall, MXLogic's Email Defense, or SpamAssassin. Most of these products focus on content-based email filtering, thereby quarantining suspected content from employee mailboxes. The following contents of an email are analyzed to determine spam likeliness:

Step 2.) Email mailbox filtering

* Only allow email into your inbox from users in your address book (called Whitelisting).

* Turn off any mail preview panes so that mail does not open until you physically open it after verifying that you know the mail sender.

* If you cannot Whitelist your email, take the opposite approach. In combination with your spam filtering service provider, develop a blacklist for senders that are spamming you. Configure your mail client and spam service provider with this information so that the message gets deleted in your inbox or before it reaches your inbox.

It seems likely that spam is a fact of modern online life, and it's here to stay. So take the advice of our experts and protect yourelf and your business from unsolicited emails. After all, you most likely don't need those 'herbal remedies' anyway.

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This content was written by Derek Vaughan exclusively for Compare Web Hosts.

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