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Spam prevention

Open letter box filled with junk mailJunk email – also called spam – can cause significant problems for your business. It can clog up your email system and often carries viruses and spyware.

The problems of junk email

Junk email has the potential to cause serious problems for your business:

  • It can block up your systems. Receiving lots of spam can delay or block delivery of other messages.
  • It wastes bandwidth. If your internet costs depend on how much data you transfer, receiving spam costs you money.
  • It’s malicious. Spam is often sent with the intention of spreading viruses or spyware, or is an attempt to con you.
  • It’s inappropriate. Many junk email messages contain objectionable material which could offend people in your company.

Globally, more than 80% of email is spam. Sending these billions of messages across the internet wastes an enormous amount of computing time, bandwidth and power.

You should also be aware that marketing messages sent by your company can be perceived as junk. If you use email for marketing, make sure it’s easy for people to opt-out of receiving messages. Carefully consider the content and frequency of what you send out, so you don’t get accused of contributing to the junk email problem.

How to prevent spam

The most obvious spam prevention technique is to stop spammers getting hold of your email address in the first place:

  • Don’t publish your individual email address online. Spammers scan websites for addresses. Use a separate address for company enquiries, and put that on your website.
  • Only give your address to sites you trust. Many sites require you to register for full access. Only do this on sites you trust – and consider using a separate address to keep spam out of your main inbox.
  • Be wary of helpful links. Although legitimate companies will honour requests to unsubscribe, clicking links in spam only serves to confirm that your address is active.

However, because spammers randomly try millions of email addresses, even keeping yours private won’t be enough to stop spam completely.

Fight spam with filters

The other important tool to help you fight spam is a junk email filter. Filters are pieces of software which analyse messages and can assess which are junk email.

For effective spam prevention it’s best to use a combination of junk email filters in your business:

  • Trap spam before it reaches your company. If your email is run by an external provider or managed by a server outside your network, use a filter there to stop spam reaching your own systems.
  • Run a spam filter on your own server. If you manage an email server within your company, make sure it is running a strong spam filter.
  • Use filters on each computer. Most email software includes a spam filter. These catch messages which breach your outer defences and funnel them into a 'junk email' folder.

Filters are an important way to fight spam, but they take some time to set up. Initially, you may find that legitimate messages get blocked, or some junk email doesn’t get caught.

In fact, maintaining the right balance between not filtering out legitimate messages and blocking all junk email can be difficult. 'Intelligent' spam filters that allow your employees to report mistakenly-identified spam can help. Over time, they learn how to stop spam more effectively.

Seek advice from an IT expert, like your IT supplier, to find the best way to fight spam in your business. Combine these with training and advice to help your employees identify and deal with junk email.