This term first appeared on the Internet in what was known as Usenet, where it was used to mean news articles sent in bulk to different newsgroups. They were often advertising messages that had nothing to do with the newsgroups in question.
This type of advertising was often sent by E-mail. The term spam also ended up encompassing unsolicited bulk E-mails. Technically, it would be fairer to refer to UBE (Unsolicited Bulk E-mail) or UCE (Unsolicited Commercial E-mail).
There is no official definition of the word ‘spam’. Originally this word referred to a brand of tinned meat product. It was Monty Python who constantly repeated the word in one of their famous comedy sketches, introducing a concept of unpleasantness to spam.
Today, the word ‘spam’ is commonly used to mean unsolicited E-mails sent in bulk to many recipients. People find this type of E-mail annoying.
Such E-mails cost practically nothing to send. However, they can be very expensive for the recipients, in terms of connection costs and the volume of data transferred. This is a real waste of bandwidth and storage space for network administrators and E-mail servers, and a huge waste of time for the recipients of spam (individuals and companies) in downloading, sorting and deleting spam received, with the added risk of mistakenly deleting an E-mail that is not spam.
Spam should not be confused with advertising E-mails which are, contrary to spam, regulated through
The only thing you need to become a potential victim of spam is your E-mail address.
Spammers have numerous ways to collect your E-mail address on the Internet (in forums, on websites, in discussion groups, etc.), using software (known as ‘robots’) crawling different pages and storing any E-mail addresses they find as they go along.
Bill Gates receives 4 million E-mails a day, most of which are spam, but only 10 make their way into his inbox. The rest are filtered by anti-spam solutions. (source: BBC News – 18 Nov. 2004)
By selling on subscriber lists to a third party, which itself sells it on again, etc, your Internet service provider enables the distribution of multiple copies of your address over the Internet. Please note: it is legal for it to do so if you agreed for your E-mail address to be distributed.
Do you display your E-mail address on your personal website? Did you enter your address on web discussion forums or in newsgroups? Be aware that software can be used to automatically harvest published E-mail addresses. In all these cases, your E-mail address is likely to be targeted.
By placing an order on an electronic commerce website, by subscribing to services over a website; if the web service used is not secure, it risks having its entire database stolen – not just E-mail addresses, but potentially also VISA card numbers.
If you make a list of the commonest surnames and first names and another list of ISPs, using all possible combinations (firstname.surname, surname.firstname, firstname, etc.), you can generate hundreds of thousands of E-mail addresses with a strong chance that they exist! And this is what some spammers do.
Spammers generally use false sending E-mail addresses. It is therefore completely pointless to respond. Also, if the sender address is correct, all you will be doing is confirming the validity of your E-mail address and you will only end up receiving more spam.
There are three antispam tools capable of identifying and, where necessary, deleting unwanted messages based on changing rules. We can generally distinguish between two families of antispam software: