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Internet Snacks

How To Deal with 'Spam' (Junk Email)

(This is the first in a series of articles concerning the Internet and email; future articles will address "cookies" [bits and bytes about users], security [preserving your goodies], appropriate use [the Internet diet] and email [management tidbits]. Today's topic is "spam.")

If you still think of spam only as a lunch meat that comes in a can, you have probably never received any junk email. We all are familiar with the problem of unsolicited mail delivered by your friendly postal worker, but now anyone who finds your email address can send you messages trying to get you to buy something or support their cause. When the major online service providers opened their email systems to the Internet, unsolicited direct email marketing (spamming) on the Internet was born.

What can you do about spam? Right now there is no law or federal regulation that clearly prohibits spamming. The simplest way to deal with it is to delete it, like throwing junk mail in the trash. The problem with that approach is that is does nothing to deter the spammer from sending more messages. Replying to the spammer and asking to be removed from the mailing list may work, but sometimes you just provide them with more information that may result in receiving more spam. If you can identify the Internet service provider (for example AOL or CompuServe), you can forward the message to them, and they may terminate the spammer from their service. There are also ways to block or filter spam, but each technique has advantages and disadvantages. Your help desk personnel, your LAN or email administrator, or your information systems security officer may also be able to assist you if you want more information.

If you would like to learn more about fighting spam on the Internet, go to http://spam.abuse.net/spam/ or http://www.junkemail.org/. The Office of Information Resources Management has a Web page (http://wwwoirm.nih.gov/policy/) that includes several policies directly related to the Internet and email. As new tools, laws or technical solutions become available, OIRM will make them available on its policy Web page, but it won't spam you!


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