How Web Sites Can Generate Spam Email

by Maurice Clarke - Date: 2006-12-22 - Word Count: 681 Share This!

Every day tens of thousands of new web sites come online, many attracting big audiences, often due to free offers of advertising or special deals on products for sale.

Web sites can take several forms from selling products and services to discussion groups, blogs, newsletters - the list is endless.

If you own and operate a web site you are prey to a method called "email harvesting" where automated software reads your web site and collects email addresses. This email is then used for spam purposes either directly by the collector, or sold on by them to several spam firms. Harvested email is usually good business for spammers as emails are usually current and active.

If you own, operate or manage several web sites the problem can be compounded. Be aware of what is going on with spammers to use web sites to their advantage. Be aware of what you should and should NOT do to avoid increasing spam email for yourself and indeed your business customers, members, users, subscribers or clients.

Popular harvesting and spamming programs

# Atomic Harvester: works by the user typing in a search term and then letting the spider loose , it is claimed that this software will "vacuum'' thousands of email addresses from News groups, Web pages etc.

# On line providers and phone books. The idea being to harvest targeted emails by searching for the most useful web pages on news groups etc.

# Desktop 2000 :Very popular bulk email server can be run from any home (or business computer ) works with Atomic Harvester once emails are collected spams them out by the thousand , main claim to fame is cloaking of senders address.

# Text bomber : Strips and mines downloaded web sites of any email addresses - designed for chat logs and guest books

# Email_id (several versions of this): Perhaps the most sneaky software , will capture your email address (and name) by you merely visiting a site, attempts to trick the browser into revealing name and email address by asking it to submit a form relies on the site visitor not running browser in at least default security mode (internet explorer) , if you are running in secure mode, a pop-up will warn you and you can cancel the action.

Spamming sites reveal the creators to be novice small business operators , people with a lot of time on their hands and unscrupulous marketers who think spam gets results.

Most spammers don't want to be traced and do take note of "complainers". Some of the software will remove "complainers" and opt-outs from lists.

Check your log records you may find odd spider visits (not search engines ) these may be harvesters sweeping your pages and any linked pages. Spam hating web masters may do several things to deter spam position: robot warning text, poisoned scripts which lead to endless looping fake email addresses and one cookie we found was from (an anti-spam activist) which will send any spammer an account for $500 and a load of hilarious insulting text if a robot picks up the bait, any web master can put this script on their site.

(There are other forms of collecting email for spam but this article only covers software harvesting) How can you avoid harvesting of your web site emails?

Never show a valid email address in the text of any web page - hide the real email in the HTML code - sales@spam is NOT a valid email address no matter how it looks

Use databases to serve advertisements dynamically so email addresses do not show on the site until an active site visitor calls advertisements via links

Use enquiry forms rather than direct emails to avoid displaying any real email at all.

Set up SEPARATE email accounts for EACH web site especially those with high traffic flow. This way you monitor spam specific to each web site or department. Note: Each Spam Solution account can relate to a single "real email" address you own but you can forward BOTH clean and spam mail to separate email addresses for ease of identification.

Consider advising link partners and advertisers about the way they get enquires or order and the need to hide email addresses.

And finally

Related Tags: online business, spam, email, spamming, web business, bulk email, address book, spammers, 100%

Maurice S Clarke is founder of the wearable goods trading web site and lives in Rugby, UK. This article may be freely republished provided it remains intact.

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