More than 183 billion unwanted messages clog computer networks every day.
It's all my fault. I hoard. Emails I get, emails I send, emails I have yet to send, and tons of stuff I've filed in my Drafts folder for future use. What a pile of stuff. I'm as guilty as an oil rigger in slick water.
At this point in time I have precisely 604 email drafts and I'm keepin em all. There is, however, another kind of email stuff I don't want - the kinda stuff I'd love to stuff. Spam. Clutters things up, slows things down, and some of it can cause a hella damage. Some of it's cute, but it's all a bucket of bullstuff. Plug your nose...
Wikipedia: Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.
In addition to wasting people's time with unwanted e-mail, spam also eats up a lot of network bandwidth.
Spam can be used to spread computer viruses, trojan horses or other malicious software. The objective may be identity theft, or worse (e.g., advance fee fraud). Some spam attempts to capitalize on human greed whilst other attempts to use the victims' inexperience with computer technology to trick them (e.g., phishing).
The European Union's Internal Market Commission estimated in 2001 that "junk e-mail" cost Internet users €10 billion per year worldwide. The California legislature found that spam cost United States organizations alone more than $13 billion in 2007, including lost productivity and the additional equipment, software, and manpower needed to combat the problem. Spam's direct effects include the consumption of computer and network resources, and the cost in human time and attention of dismissing unwanted messages.
In addition, spam has costs stemming from the kinds of spam messages sent, from the ways spammers send them, and from the arms race between spammers and those who try to stop or control spam. In addition, there are the opportunity costs of those who forgo the use of spam-afflicted systems. There are the direct costs, as well as the indirect costs borne by the victims—both those related to the spamming itself, and to other crimes that usually accompany it, such as financial theft, identity theft, data and intellectual property theft, virus and other malware infection, child pornography, fraud, and deceptive marketing.
Most of it is crap advertising. But, to be honest, you and I generate a good deal of it ourselves. So there's a good deal you and I can do about it.
At the very least, we could make an effort to hide or remove personal addresses when emailing. Before re-forwarding, always highlight and delete the headers that contain the addresses. Don't miss the embedded ones (those emails that open one within another within another) every one has a header. Open them all the way to the original message, forward that one, but highlight and delete the personal addresses first. It's that simple.
Whenever you send an email to multiple recipients, hide their addresses by sending blind copies (BCC); otherwise every single address will go to every single recipient, multiple times over, leaving them vulnerable to spammers. Spammers love that stuff. They want it bad.
Or stop forwarding altogether. Especially an email that tells you to send it to everyone you know. Don't. Just don't. That's a honkin bright red flag.
If, however, you can't resist forwarding something - maybe because it sounds really really important - then check it out first. There are a number of reliable and perfectly lovely websites devoted to fact checking this stuff. Most email claims are totally bogus and these sites can prove it. They've already done the work for you, so cut to the chase and use them. Within moments, you can return a highly intelligent, brilliantly informed response before the sender even arises from his computer. Or just Google a few words from the email. There will be an answer. Let it be.
One good fact-checking website is Snopes, the oldest on the Internet. Snopes has become a legend unto themselves and so effective at busting hoaxes, the hoaxsters have tried to hoax Snopes. Read Snopes Under Fire. Funny stuff.
Here are the sites I've saved to my own Favorites for verification or general information. I use them all for cross-checking and for varying points of view.
Truth or Fiction
About.com: Urban Legends
Break the Chain
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Wikipedia: E-mail Spam
BACN - SPAM: The Next Generation
ChoiceMail - 100% of Junk Email Gone
I could go on and on about this stuff, but I'll save you the ordeal by turning you over to those who know their stuff.
How to Deal with an Email Hoax or Urban Legend
By dcole at eHow
I love my friends and I appreciate that they want to pass on information that might keep me safe. But oh how I dislike those mass forwarded emails of internet hoaxes that masquerade as important information. You get them too, I'm sure. Do you forward them on? Please don't! Here's the responsible thing to do when you get one of these hoax emails that seem to be information.
1. Learn to recongize the signs of a hoax.
Does the email seem urgent?
Is some expert quoted?
Is your health or safety (or your family's or your computer's) threatened?
Is a seemingly helpful solution to a problem (one you didn't even think of) suggested?
Are you encouraged to send it to everyone you know?
Red flag alert! One of the reasons these hoaxes are perpetuated is because they sound so likely. There is often a grain of truth in the story, or if not, it sounds like it could be true. That's no reason to believe it, nor is your trust in your friend a good reason to believe it. If your friend jumped off a cliff would you follow him? (Do I sound like your mother? well she was right about this!)
2. Check it out. Never, and I mean NEVER forward an email of this type without checking out the information yourself. Even if it has a quote from Snopes in it, don't believe it. Go to Snopes.com or Google a few words from the email and see if it has been reported as a hoax or urban legend.
It is amazing how few people take the responsibility of checking on the information that they so eagerly pass on to their friends. This is how rumors, gossip, and viruses spread. These emails are an information virus and you don't want to be one of the perpetuators who spread it around. There's no excuse for this, honestly.
3. Reply all. Now that you've discovered that the forwarded email is a hoax, don't just ignore it. Think of all those gullible, well-meaning and (yes) lazy people who your friend sent this to who are now passing it forward. This must be stopped. Go to the email, and choose Reply All (not just reply to your friend). Write a friendly (really try not to be hostile, superior, accusatory or spiteful now) little note about the falsity of the information and include a link to Snopes.com, preferably the link to the page debunking this particular false claim.
"Hi hon, Thank you for the email but it raised some red flags with me so I checked it out at Snopes.com [place URL here] and found that it's a hoax. You might want to spread the word back to the person who sent this to you so that hoaxes like these can be stopped. Your friend,"
4. Feel good. You've done a good deed today, debunking falsity and promoting responsibility. Yay you!
5. Once in a while you may get one of these and not find it on Snopes (highly unlikely but let's say it's possible). Consider carefully before forwarding it. Does it help your friends to know this if it IS true? If it is false, will it hurt your friends to believe it's true? What about that coughing for a heart attack thing? Would it save a life or could it make things worse? Check it out, then use some common sense. If you've received this as a forwarded email, chances are so has Snopes and there's a report.
6. And what if it's TRUE? What about not using cruise control in the rain? (this one is true). Check it out, and if it turns out to be true, go ahead and share it. You can even mention that you've checked it out with Snopes and give the link for your not-so-lazy friends. If you exercise this kind of responsible action, your friends will learn to trust the information you pass on, which will be good for all of us.
Understanding E-Mail Hoaxes
The University of California: Educational Computing
In general it is considered very bad form to forward a message on to a large number of people. Many Internet Service Providers will go so far as to remove your account if you do this, even if you believe it is for a good cause. If just one person responds to you they will respond to the entire list! We have seen this create thousands of angry e-mail messages in a matter of hours.
Any e-mail that is from an organization trying to effect a change should refer to a specific URL where you can go to sign a petition or to make your voice heard. The problem with the Internet is that even if the request is legitimate the message is likely to circulate for months, if not years, after the messages intended date has passed.
Symantec's Anti-Virus Research Center Virus Hoax Page
A Big List of Hoax Sites from Yahoo
US-CERT Vulnerability Notes Database
About.com's Urban Legends and Virus Hoax Pages
How to Confirm an Email's Authenticity
By Paul Gil, About.com Guide
There are four common kinds of email hoaxes:
Fake Photos (Hands of God, sharks eating helicopters, monster cats)
Chain Letters (threats, requests, promises of money)
Mythical Stories, (public warnings, shocking narratives, outlandish claims)
Outright Scams ("phishing" and phone schemes attempting to access your finances)
In all cases, your response should routinely be:
Resist the urge to click the link or forward the message.
Do your homework and confirm the message.
For email stories, photos, and chain letters: do not forward the email. Even if the nature of the email story makes it seem urgent and time-sensitive, resist the urge to forward it. As compelling as that mermaid photo or that Microsoft promise of $400 can be, take 10 minutes and confirm it first. You will save yourself embarassment in front of your savvy friends, and you will help stop the spread of damaging email rumors.
For emails that ask you to confirm your bank or ebay identify: never respond or click the link. A legitimate bank would never ask for your identity via an email link. Instead: immediately close all browser windows, and then use either a newly-launched browser, or pick up the telephone, and check your bank personally to confirm the identity request. This kind of cautious response is very important to thwart these clever email scammers. Whenever you receive a "phishing" email (fake email attempting to lure you into giving your eBay or bank account and PIN), NEVER click on the link. These scammers are trying to lure you into typing your account number and password! Read more about phishing scams here.
Free resources for researching/confirming an email's authenticity:
Phishing and Email Scams (banking, eBay, Paypal)
The Top Reported Email Hoaxes and Viruses This Month
The Top 25 Urban Legends This Month
Current "Netlore" Hoaxes and Myths
The Top Fake Photos This Month
Snopes: Scam and Phishing Schemes Report
The Straight Dope: Search The Myth Archives
DOE - Computer Incident Advisory Capability
"Google" the Email Subject
There's one more thing I've learned about email stuff. Forget about sending it if it's political, no matter how accurate, to people of another persuasion. Nothing enters a closed mind. The tiniest crack might crumble their entire world. You can't expect people to give up everything they've ever believed in.
But there's one thing I think we can all agree on - politicians tell whoppers. FactCheck.org is a site that focuses specifically on the claims that politicians make. During campaign time this site is smokin'. This is the site you'll see quoted by the media after televised political debates.
Wikipedia says about it: FactCheck.org is a non-partisan, nonprofit website that describes itself as a "'consumer advocate' for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics." It is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and is funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation. Most of its content consists of rebuttals to what it considers inaccurate, misleading, or false claims by politicians. FactCheck has also targeted misleading claims from various partisan groups.
On that note, I'll leave you with a recent article from Salon.com that compares Democrat and Republican mud-slinging. Interesting stuff.
The Party of No ... Credibility
A look at Snopes.com shows rumors about Obama to be more numerous and vicious than the ones about Bush were.
This post originally appeared on J.L. Bell's blog Oz and Ends.
Salon.com Apr 23, 2010
American right-wing leaders are responding to complaints about their adherents’ insults, threats, and acts of violence by claiming that such problems occur on the left as well. Of course, they don’t dare to compare and quantify such behavior. That would mean acknowledging that, for example, Congressional historians find no precedent for Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouting at the president during a joint session of Congress. Or that there was a disturbing spike in death threats to the president in the months after President Barack Obama took office.
To keep on top of urban myths of all kinds, I subscribe to the Snopes.com update list, and I noticed a pattern there that I thought deserved to be examined more arithmetically. It struck me I was seeing a lot more rumors about President Obama, and a lot more false rumors, than I remembered from earlier years. So I ran the numbers, as of this week.
After eight years in the White House (with Snopes.com around all that time), George W. Bush has been the subject of 47 internet rumors. After less than two years in office, Barack Obama has been the subject of 87, or nearly twice as many.
Even more telling is the relative accuracy of those stories. For Bush, 20 rumors, or 43%, are true. Only 17, or 36%, are false. The remainder are of mixed veracity (4), undetermined (4), or unclassifiable (2).
In contrast, for Obama only 8 of the 87 rumors, or 9%, are true, and a whopping 59, or 68%, are whoppers. There are 17 of mixed veracity and 3 undetermined.
I delved down to the stories that the site designates as a mixture of truth and falsehood. For Obama, in many cases the truth is innocuous while the lie reflects poorly on the President, particularly photographs that are misrepresented or show behavior that produced no complaints when his predecessors did the same. In contrast, in this mixture of truth and falsehood about George W. Bush praying with an injured soldier, the lie reflected well on that President from the perspective of the religious person spreading it.
I looked on Snopes’s Politics page for another pair of politicians in parallel situations, and found the losing candidates of the last two presidential elections. Snopes’s page on Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., lists 22 rumors, and only 3 are true (14%). Its page for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., lists only 11 rumors, and 4 are true (36%). There are far more rumors about the Democratic candidate, and fewer true ones.
This evidence accumulated over ten years shows a shameful but undeniable fact of American politics: Our right wing now contains a lot more liars, and a lot more folks who spread lies out of gullibility or wishfulness, than our left wing.