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Please Teach Aunt Martha What SPAM is.

Posted by J Powers at 9:10 AM on March 25, 2010

So the numbers are getting better. According to the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), 80% of Internet users are aware of the botnets and spam in email. They know that there is no national lottery or company that spells their product V1@gra. Still, 20 percent of users are still taking SPAM seriously. That is seriously a bad number and it shows, because the report says we continue to select the spam.

Think about it – There are 305 million in the United States alone. That means sixty-one million people will respond to SPAM. Sixty-one million will be at risk of loosing thousands of dollars and possibly their credit line. Sixty-one million might get malware on their machine, which might enter your machine. Now apply that 20% to the 6.6 Billion from around the world. That means you can market a SPAM campain to 1.2 billion viewers and expect about 120 million to respond (using the 1:100 ratio).

We, as responsible IT reporters, talk about awareness to SPAM. But now I think it’s time for us to start pleading that you need to change your stance from an advocate, to a teacher. Turn your efforts into educating your parents, grandparents, friends, cousins and other people what SPAM, botnets and Malware really is and how to avoid it.

If we became a world with a 95% awareness to SPAM, we might just fight the ongoing problem. I just recorded a segment on my Podcast (Day in Tech History) for March 30th. I talked about how SPAM had creeped back up to where it was just before the MoColo server was taken down. That was noted on March 30th, 2009; 4 months after the server was raided.

Now, granted, 5% of non-aware people is still a big number. About 15 million in the US and 300 million worldwide. However, that number is more palatable than 61 million and 1.2 billion. I would like to believe in 5-10 years we could reach that number naturally. The only problem is that spammers are like everyone else – They learn from their drawbacks.

Sometimes I am impressed with some of the messages received. My curiosity sets in, so I want to take that message a little further. However, I do that in a controlled environment. Never on the production machine, where my email addresses could be mined. Never to a link that looks like it’s this:

ww.whatever.com?user=your@email.address&SSN=333333333&otherdata=whatever_we_can_think_of

(in those cases, I will remove the extra data). Never a short-link in the email (example: bit.ly/Tbd87jh) If I go to a page with any type of login – especially one that looks like a popular website such as Facebook or Twitter – I stop.

Curiosity may get my cat, but it shouldn’t get yours. That is, unless you take the same amount of precautions. Of course I also do it to make sure I can explain what you need to look out for.

Spam, botnets and Malware can be big business for those who utilize it. They prey on those who don’t know better. They make new tricks to take your hard earned money. The only way to really turn the tables now is to sit down with the kids like you are going to tell them the birds and bees, but in this case, it’s a discussion on how SPAM is bad.

Don’t forget to also sit down with Mom and Dad and have that same discussion.