Estimates of the economic costs of spam and preventing it range from 20 to 50 billion dollars annually. These estimates are based on the cost of developing spam filtering software, and the lost productivity due to the time it takes to delete spam that isn't successfully blocked.
What strides are being made to combat it? Security software maker Webroot recently launched a service designed to protect users from the increased threat of spammers who hijack email addresses to send large volumes of unsolicited messages. A side effect of spam, viruses and worms called “backscatter” occurs when a spammer sends messages to large distribution lists, causing an e-mail server to be overwhelmed with thousands of failed delivery messages or bounce backs.
According to Webroot, 90% of business e-mails sent out are actually spam that has resulted from these hijacked addresses. Their latest release of Webroot E-mail Security allows customers to configure their systems to automatically recognize backscatter and block those messages from entering a user’s mailbox. Besides protecting businesses, Webroot also has a huge suite of discounted software designed to protect individual users from online threats.
Tragically, the cost of spam and other online mischief isn’t just economic – it can also take a human toll. The BBC recently detailed the results of a cyber-blackmail scam that may have led to a teenager committing suicide. Cyber-blackmailers threaten to share information about a person unless a demand is met or money is paid.
A 17 year old boy was reportedly lured into an online video chat with a woman, and then the footage was used to extort money from him under the threat of revealing the footage to his family. The distraught boy is thought to have killed himself because of the situation.
What are the best ways to protect yourself from such threats? Here are some tips:
- Always have the latest security software installed on all of your devices.
- Never send any form of sexual picture.
- Report cyber-blackmail to the police.
- Don't post personal information online.
- Check the privacy settings on sites like Facebook/Twitter to make sure your personal information is private.
- Block any users that send you threatening messages.
- Never reveal your real name, where you go to school or your place of work.
- Block spam emails and delete them.
In short, always remain aware that online threats are real and never let your guard down. Report all spam to your Internet provider and regularly scan your devices to make sure they haven’t been compromised.
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