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Protecting Your Customers from Spam
By: Terri Wells
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    Table of Contents:
  • Protecting Your Customers from Spam
  • Know Your Customers
  • Technical Preparation
  • Have an AUP

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    Protecting Your Customers from Spam

    (Page 1 of 4 )

    Everyone hates spam, and there seems to be no escape from it. As a web host, however, you're closer to the front lines of this battle than your customers. In this article, I'll detail some of the steps you can take to keep this unsolicited annoyance from getting out of hand.

    By some estimates, spam, also known as unsolicited bulk email, has already gotten out of hand generally across the Internet. Ferris Research estimated that the cost of spam to the United States economy came to more than $10 billion in 2003. That takes into account the consumption of computing resources, help desk personnel time, and worker productivity (after all, the few seconds spent deleting each of those emails adds up). When Intermedia.NET launched its new SpamStopper service, it cited 2006 research which estimated that spam "represents over 66% of all email sent, and more than 10% of lost productivity."

    The federal anti-spam laws have done little if anything to stem the tide. As Scott Chasin, chief technology officer for anti-spam company MX Logic notes, "Predictions of the impending death of spam are premature. While significant advances in anti-spam technology have made it possible to relieve email users of unwanted commercial email before it hits their in boxes, spam still makes up the majority of all email traffic -- imposing a significant burden on the Internet and on the effectiveness of email."

    The situation may sound bleak, but it isn't hopeless. You will need to be proactive in the battle, however, since there is no automated program that is 100 percent effective against all spam. Even if there were, spammers (and especially phishers) are clever; as fast as anyone comes up with ways to filter spam, they come up with ways to get around the filters. For example, when spam filters started blocking emails that contained words used frequently in spam, spammers just started using variations of the words or corruptions of them that would still get the point across.

    Sure, you need to have automated programs guarding your customers' in boxes, but you also need to engage in manual monitoring. Check uploaded files for common spam scripts, watch server loads, and keep an eye on your customers, especially new ones, for unusual behavior. Register your email with spam fighting sites, such as Spamcop.net or Abuse.net.

    If you do find yourself with a spam problem on your hands, you need to have an action plan in place. Create one now, before you have to use it. Don't attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance (yes, there are still people who are ignorant of spam, or at least of how to handle it).

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