interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Internet Security Tip #1 spam

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on September 12, 2010

red circle with a strike through over the word SPAMWe all know spam is out there. We all get it. The only real way to stop spam is for no one to ever ever answer it.
Mark it as spam and delete it. But so long as one person somewhere in the world clicks ‘reply’ or ‘buy’, it will never go away.

But there are things we can do.

don’t make it easy for spammers

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed along this advice, because it is a simple thing that we can all do.

When sending email to many people it is much better to select “BCC” than “CC”.

  • CC = stands for ‘carbon copy’
  • BCC = stands for ‘blind carbon copy’

When you use “CC” every recipient gets access to every email address.

This is important because if even a single copy of your email goes astray and falls into the hands of a spam harvester, they get the bonanza of a whole pile of email addresses to send spam to or to sell to other spammers to send spam to. Spammers aren’t going away any time soon so we should at least try to make it tough for them.

BCC means that the recipients can only see your email address, their own, and the addressee if there is one. Sending them all BCC would mean that only 2 email addresses appear in the email.

Always use BCC

And no, I’m not saying that you can’t trust the people you sending email to.

The thing to realize is that email travels across the Internet. DPI is the equivalent of unsealing our email.

But in Canada, the CRTC allows Bell Canada to use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to look inside Internet traffic– which includes email. DPI is illegal in Europe due to privacy concerns. It just takes one unscrupulous person with access and spammers have our email addresses.

history lesson: the origin of the carbon copy

Antique typewriter

Before computers, people in the 20th Century had typewriters. Typewriters were machines used for writing. Pressing down on a typewriter key worked the typewriter machine by striking the corresponding letter shaped metal die onto an inked ribbon against paper rolled into the machine.

When using a typewriter, it was possible to make an exact copy by sandwiching a piece of carbon paper between two sheets of typing paper and rolling them both into the typewriting machine. The force applied to the key would first transfer the ink to the paper and then through the flimsy carbon paper transferring the carbon onto the second piece of paper in the shape of the typed character.

The drawback was that the second copy was not crisp. The advantage that every keystroke was reproduced. This second copy was called a carbon copy. It was considered good form for the typist to type “cc” followed by the name of the person who would receive the second copy. In this way, bot copies indicate who received the letter.

A duplicate made without indicating a second recipient was called a “blind carbon copy” or “bcc” since the original recipient is not privvy to either the fact of it’s existence or information about it’s disposition. Often a file copy would be made in this fashion so that the sender retained a copy of his side of the correspondence.


image Credits:
“No Spam” image by laurelrusswurm under a Creative Commons CC0 License

Underwood 11 Typewriter photo by alexkerhead under a Creative Commons Attribution License (cc by)

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One Response to “Internet Security Tip #1 spam”

  1. […] those who think that tips are enough to keep one safe from those spam-sending Windows botnets, here is an important reminder. […]

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