Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thoughts on Spam, Viruses and so forth

I have been thinking about spam and not the kind that comes in the rounded can. The kind that shows up on your email, in comments and elsewhere. It is pretty hard not to think about it when you are staring at a screen full of Amharic characters and having to click to get rid of unwanted messages all day and night. It reminds me of the movie The Fifth Element where Bruce Willis is being hunted through the city and the video screens are everywhere tracking him. It seems like every time I go on the computer someone is throwing a message at me and trying to get my attention whether I am interested or not. Fortunately, my brain has a pretty good spam filter and my fingers move very quickly to the delete key.

The difficult thing about spam, of course, is that there are a lot of people out there that aren't just trying to make a fast buck, there are those who are trying to destroy the system. I would be naive not to recognize that some of the spam I filter out is malicious. But if you are really trying to contact me for a legitimate purpose, you just might want to remember a few simple rules.

1. I will never open or read a message that I can't immediately identify as legitimate and I certainly do not respond. 
Now that said, how do I determine whether or not a message is legitimate? We get some pretty innovative spam messages, but nearly all of the time spam is spam; it smells funny. Usually the Phishing messages I get ask me to respond to a URL or email without an explanation. This is, of course, except those long ones coming from someone who is trying to give me a million dollars that they just happen to have laying around. What happens if you delete a good message that you should have read and responded to? Nothing. If the person really wants to contact you, they can call you on the phone or send a letter or something else. Or even, if you can believe this, contact you in person.

I do not classify legitimate inquiries and invitations as spam. If you want to send out an invite to join the Antarctic Genealogy Group on Google+ I am more than happy to get the invitation. I may ignore it, but I personally do not classify it as spam, because I basically asked for it by being on Google+ in the first place. As Harry S. Truman said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." This might be better said, if you can't cope, get out.  If Facebook etc. is driving you crazy, then quit. As for me, I have a great capacity to ignore junk and I will stay in the game for the time being.

2. I never (NEVER) send money or buy anything unsolicited. 
If I didn't initiate the contact, I ignore any offer however enticing from any source. Nothing. That goes for solicitations on the street from beggars and from beggars on the Internet. As soon as I detect a solicitation, it goes in the trash. End of story.

3. I use multiple levels of spam filters. 
To eliminate some of the more egregious examples of spam, I use multiple spam filters. I used to go through everything my spam filter caught, just in case it turned away something legitimate, but now I don't bother. I have seen so much spam, I no longer view my job as trying preserve the random message that might be valid from being thrown out with the trash.

OK, this all doesn't work 100% of the time, but the amount that finally gets through to me is very, very small indeed and 100% of what does get through goes straight to the trash. 

1 comment:

  1. What drives me crazier, and I don't know how to stop it, is auto play on videos and auto "clicking" on a site while just moving the mouse over it. I have a good spam filter of my own, just ignore it and soon they will quit sending you if do not acknowledge its existence.