From:         Patrick Douglas Crispen 

TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: The Eighth "First Annual Tourbus Spam" post

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, birthplace of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

TOURBUS is made possible by the kind support of our sponsors. Please take a moment to visit today's sponsors and thank them for keeping our little bus of Internet happiness on the road week after week. On with the show ...

And now, on with one of TOURBUS' yearly traditions: the completely revised eigth "First Annual TOURBUS Thanksgiving Spam" post. :)


Happy Turkey Day, y'all! For those bus riders not in the United States, every fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving, a holiday where we celebrate the one day in history that we were nice to the Native Americans. We celebrate Thanksgiving by consuming vast quantities of turkey -- my parents plan to cook a 20 pound bird to feed our family of four -- followed by the ritualistic watching of football by the men and the final approval of tactical war plans for the Christmas shopping season by the women.

It is customary for the turkey growers of America to give the President of the United States a free, live turkey. It is also customary for the President to grant the turkey a Presidential pardon, placing the turkey in a petting zoo. This year, while President Bush was making up his mind about the pardon and the Democrats in the Senate were debating a continuing resolution to override the President's pardon and to condemn the President for being soft on poultry, the turkey died of old age. :P

Anyway, since the other day was "turkey day," I thought it would be once again appropriate to take a few moments to talk about the _REAL_ turkeys of the Internet: the "spammers." On the Internet, the word "spam" has two meanings:

1. A canned luncheon meat with the shelf life of gravel; and

2. Inappropriate email letters, oftentimes advertisements, that
are sent to hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet.

Sadly, there is no way for you to prevent the former. But there are a few tips that will help you at least slow the flow of the latter.

Spam "Wounding"

How on earth do spammers get your email address in the first place? Well, according to the Email Abuse FAQ, they get your address by

1. Running programs that collect email addresses out of Usenet
[network news] posting headers 2. Culling them from subscriber lists (such as AOL's Member
Profile list) 3. Using web-crawling programs that look for mailto: codes in
HTML documents 4. Ripping them out of online "white pages" directories
5. Buying a list [of email addresses] from someone who already
has one 6. Taking them from you without your knowledge when you visit
their web site. 7. Using finger on a host computer to find online users
addresses 8. Collecting member names from online "chat rooms."

Obviously, anything you can do to hide your email address from spammers will greatly diminish the amount of new spam you will receive in the future. One of the easiest ways for you to do this is to "mung" your email address. While it sounds like a character from Flash Gordon, "Mung" is actually an acronym that means "mash until no good." You can find step-by-step instructions on how to mung your email address at .

A few years ago, the folks at CNET wrote a wonderful guide on how to hide your email address from spammers. The guide has long disappeared into the ether, but I was able to find it in the Internet Archive at I'll give you the address for CNET's complete guide in a moment, but there are three sections of CNET's guide I'd like to mention first.

"Hide your address: newsgroups" is a page that tells you how to hide your email address in your Usenet postings. CNET recommends munging your address, using a free email account from Hotmail or Rocketmail, or even using a fake email address in your posts.

If truth be told, I don't do any of these. BUT, when I visit a Web site that asks me to key in my email address, I almost always key in a fake address. I used to key in something like, but a few alert TOURBUS riders informed me that there are three better addresses I could use:

You can replace the word "anyword" with any word at all. The folks at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) recently reserved these second level domain names for experimentation and testing. There are two benefits to this:

1. Web programmers and technical writers can use example domain
addresses in their work without the fear of pointing their audience to a real, working address; and

2. People like you and me can use the example domain addresses
when nosy Web sites ask us to key in our email addresses or Web page addresses.

Ain't technology grand? :)

To read CNET's "Hide your address: newsgroups" page, point your Web browser to /Howto/Stop/ss01b.html .

Another way spammers farm email addresses is from the subscription lists of popular email distributions lists. You don't have to worry about that happening on TOURBUS -- Bob and I set up TOURBUS in such a way that NO ONE can access our subscription list (I don't even think that *WE* can access it), and we both hate spam so much we would never think of violating your trust by sharing your email address with anyone else -- but not all email lists are as honorable. To find out how to hide your email address on L-Soft LISTSERV, Listproc, and Majordomo lists, visit CNET's "Hide your address: mailing lists" page at /Howto/Stop/ss01d.html .

Finally, to find out how to hide your email address from online white pages sites like Bigfoot and Four11, visit CNET's "Hide your address: directories" page at /Howto/Stop/ss01c.html .

That should slow the flow of new spam into your email inbox. Now, let's try to get your current flow of spam under control.

Filtering Spam

The BEST way to deal with spam is to have your email program detect it and send it to your trash can before you even see it. This is called "filtering," and most good email programs will do an okay job of filtering your email, provided you set up the filters correctly. A better way might be to use special filtering software that works in conjunction with your email program.

We'll talk more about this next week.

What NOT to Do

The worst thing you can do with a spam is respond to it. If you respond, one of two things will happen:

1. The message will bounce because the spammer used a fake
return address; or

2. The spammer will know that not only do you read your email,
you also take the time to respond. This information is GOLD to a spammer. Spammers will actually use your "remove me" message as a way to harvest your email address and then they will sell your address to other spammers.

I can't emphasize this enough: DON'T REPLY TO A SPAM! You open yourself to a world of hurt if you do. The same is true with those "removal sites" that promise to remove your email address from the spammers' lists. Think about it -- in order for you to be removed from the lists, the removal site has to SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO A BUNCH OF SPAMMERS! Do you REALLY want to do this?

The Spam Bible

There is a point where you will stop wanting to just delete spam and start wanting to combat the spammers themselves. If ever get to that point, I strongly recommend that you read the alt.spam FAQ at .

The alt.spam FAQ is a highly technical, spam-killing bible, telling you how to decipher where a spam came from and how to find and complain to the appropriate network administrators.

Finally, the CNET URL

Oh, and before I forget, you can find CNET's "Can Anyone Stop Spam?" guide on the Web at /Howto/Stop/index.html

Words cannot describe how highly I recommend this guide. It should be a must-read for anyone even thinking about venturing into the world of email.

That's it for today! Have a safe and happy weeke and we'll talk again soon! :)

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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