What Is spam on the internet

In this blog post, we will cover what is spam, what are the types of spam and how to avoid spam.

Updated: 19 Aug, 22 by Susith Nonis 6 Min

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When most people think of spam, the first thing that comes to mind is miracle treatment formulas from random internet pharmacies and, more popularly, money requests from "princes" in distant kingdoms. But what is spam? Spam is any form of unsolicited, unwanted digital communication dispersed in bulk. Usually, spam is sent via email but can also be distributed through social media, phone calls, and messages.

Apart from being a menace, spam is a threat, and while most people consider themselves smart enough to identify them in any form, this is unfortunately not the case. Scammers are constantly updating their messages and methods to trick more victims. 

No one wants to lose money to cyber cons or unwittingly download malware into their systems. In reality, though, you are always at the risk of an attack from cybercriminals. Just look at your inbox. This article will cover how the name spam was coined, common types of spam, and how you can protect yourself against them.

People started using spam to describe unwanted emails in 1994. In that year, a mercenary programmer had developed a simple script to send the same message from lawyers Siegel and Canter to all the message boards on USENET. At the time, this was the largest conferencing system online.

The computer geeks on USENET named this mass mailing spam, and the name stuck. To this day, spam is used to mean unsolicited junk mail, which currently makes up about 80-85% of email. 

There are many forms of spam, and here are some of the most common ones.

1. Phishing

Phishing is one of the most common types of spam. It is predominantly delivered through a chat, email, website, or web ad and is designed to impersonate real persons or organizations. A phishing message delivers fear or a sense of urgency to persuade online users to give up their information. A phishing message could come from someone purporting to be a major organization, bank, or government.

2. Baiting

Baiting is similar to phishing because it offers something alluring in exchange for your private data or login information. The "bait" is presented in different forms, such as a corporate branded flash drive 'accidentally" left on your desk or through video and music downloads. Once you download the bait, malicious software is injected into your device, granting the hacker access to your system.

3. Vishing

Vishing is also similar to phishing; the difference is that it occurs over the phone. The scammer solicits personal data such as financial information, address, and date of birth over the phone.

4. Quid Pro Quo

In this form of spam, the hacker requests login credentials and critical data, and the victim is offered a service in exchange. For instance, you might receive a call from a hacker posing as a tech expert where they offer you to free IT assistance for your personal information. If you get an offer that seems too good to be true, it is probably quid pro quo.

5. Browser spam

Browser spam is not as common as email and messenger-oriented scams but still afflicts numerous unsuspecting internet users. This type of scam capitalizes on the increased popularity of browser notifications. When used correctly, browser notifications can streamline online interactions limiting the need for open tabs. Unfortunately, they can also be tweaked to create devastating security threats.

Browser spam uses browser notifications to trick users into subscribing to sketchy websites. These subsequently bombard recipients with prompts linked to problematic schemes. Most enhanced mobile and computer security solutions cannot detect and eradicate browser spam, so they often go unchecked.

6. Trackback spam

It is a specific kind of comment spam where the issue arises when the trackbacks are utilized excessively. Before knowing how this spam works, it is crucial to understand the concept of a trackback. It is a notification created to alert other sites when you link to them. When appropriately used, trackbacks develop backlinks.

Unfortunately, other websites can link to your page once a trackback is enabled. It could work in your favour when the sites involved in your trackback are high quality. It, however, becomes an issue when spammers decide to send links to risky websites through your comments.

Spam is dangerous and annoying as well. Thankfully, there are several things that you can do or avoid to protect yourself from it. Below are some of the golden tips.

1. Keep your software updated

Whenever your site's software becomes outdated, it becomes more vulnerable. For instance, you might notice weird articles on your site that you haven't posted yourself. Besides odd posts, you might also start seeing numerous random comments. 

That is usually a result of hackers accessing your site and including links to their sites in your comment section or the guest posts. To avoid such issues update your site and install a security plugin onto your website.

2. Always use Captcha

This challenge-response test is your first line of defence against spam, regardless of the circumstance. Without Captcha, software and bots can easily upload posts on your site. If Google indexes your site, ensure that you install some kind of Captcha on your login pages, comment section, and forms.

3. Track your backlinks

 It is vital to track your backlinks activity constantly to protect your site against negative SEO attacks. Sudden spikes in backlinks leading to your site could signify the start of a link spam session. If you ignore it, you might experience significant inconvenience in the future.

4. Avoid subscribing to email lists using your primary email

If you are keen on downloading a free PDF, ensure that you do so using an email that you don't use daily. You could also use an email you don't use for important emails. That is because you don't know the individual behind the opt-in form. When you start receiving spam, it is easy to miss out on important mail from business partners and clients.

We hope this article helped you understand what is spam and how to avoid this threat. Spam can be a real pain. Hopefully, you will be able to identify and protect yourself against them using the information and tips provided above.

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Susith Nonis

Susith Nonis

I'm fascinated by the IT world and how the 1's and 0's work. While I venture into the world of Technology, I try to share what I know in the simplest way with you. Not a fan of coffee, a travel addict, and a self-accredited 'master chef'.