Tech Talk Tuesday – Spam

It’s #TechTalkTuesday – where tech terms are defined, explained, and no longer a mystery. 

Today’s term is spam. 

Not just a canned meat product used to create musubi, spam is something that we’re all likely quite familiar with. Anyone who has spent any time online over the past few decades has been met with spam in one of its forms. 

It seems to be something synonymous with the internet experience and it also seems that most of us just accept it for what it is. Are you familiar with the types of spam? 

The most defining point about spam is that you didn’t ask for it. It’s not something you’ve signed up for. It’s typically promotional. And it’s annoying. 

Signed up for updates from your favorite sock company? Tired of getting them now? Well, that’s not spam. Even if you no longer want to get these updates. Generally, you can unsubscribe from their mailing list and no longer receive the newsletter. 

Spam relates more to unsolicited bulk messages sent blindly with the hope of catching the eye of some of the recipients. It tends to be commercial, annoying as it clutters your inbox. But broadly speaking it is not always fraudulent or malicious. It can be, of course. 

There are a few types of spam to be aware of. 

  • Email spam. This is your typical spam. It floods your inbox and takes up your time as you sift through it. 
  • Social media spam. Messages are sent en masse to seemingly random groups on social media or posted in public and private groups. Throwaway social media accounts are used for this type of spam. The accounts are typically reported and taken down. 
  • Mobile spam. Text messages are sent to your phone anonymously, with large groups of people being targeted at the same time. 
  • Messaging app spam. These messages are blasted out using instant messaging platforms. This could include Skype and WhatsApp. 

Don’t confuse spam with phishing. Their methods are quite similar. Spammers are a pest but generally speaking their work is promotional. They aren’t out to take over your accounts or scam you out of money. The spammer has something that they need to sell, and they’ve determined that spamming is one of the ways for them to promote their service or product. Phishers, on the other hand, are looking to gain access to your sensitive data. Phishing scams are also often distributed in bulk, but their goals are much more malicious than the spammer selling a weight loss tea. 

Spam is cheap to send. This means it’s unlikely to go away any time soon. That said, there are some steps you can take to reduce the amount of spam that you receive. 

  • Most email services will include a spam reporting function. Use it to report the spam messages that you receive.  
  • Use an email address devoted specifically for signing up for things. Use it to sign up for newsletters, ecommerce platforms, coupons and other things that require an email address.  
  • Avoid opening spam if you can. Don’t click on any links, don’t open and download any attachments. Definitely don’t interact with the spammer by replying to the message. 
  • Spammers harvest public data. If your email address is published anywhere, it’s sure to be snapped up by eager spammers. 

Spam might be here to stay, but you can take steps to help minimize what you see in your inbox.