Spam is a very common phenomenon on the web and can be quite annoying. In addition to filling our devices with unwanted communications, this practice can also be used by cybercriminals to install malicious software via links or attachments. Therefore, in this section of our guide we explain what spam is, how you can identify it and what you should do to prevent it from affecting your devices.
What does it consist of? Who sends?
Also called “junk mail”, spam consists of sending unwanted and bulk communications to people who are part of a mailing list. Within this classification are email advertising campaigns that do not interest you, suspicious promotions that you have not requested, messages on social networks and even text messages (SMS) to your mobile phone. For this reason, it is called spam.
As you can see, the means used can vary on each occasion, the important thing in all cases is that the person receiving the information has not requested it or is not interested in it.
Currently, the Data Protection Law expressly prohibits companies from sending unauthorized emails to the recipients. Consequently, the number of mass mailings has decreased considerably . So why are we still getting spam? Mainly, for three reasons:
- Many times we authorize them to send us commercial communications without being aware of it. For example, if we don’t pay enough attention to the conditions we agree to when we register with a website.
- Although they are few, some companies continue to send mass communications despite the restrictions.
- There are also cybercriminals who collect Internet users’ emails and phone numbers to later carry out mass communications or infect our system with some type of malicious software.
Luckily, awareness has made spam no longer an unknown subject. We can all contribute to making the Internet a much safer space free of unwanted communications. The key is not to continue annoying messages and act appropriately when we receive one (later we will give you several good practice tips).
Can it be dangerous?
In addition to being annoying, spam can carry some risks to consider before opening a spam message . The first thing you should know is that by opening an email you are exposing your team to its content, especially when you don’t know who the sender is.
The main risk of spam is related to malware (computer virus). This can be present in the form of attached files and in different ways:
- An image that introduces a virus when processed by your computer.
- A video that infects your devices while you are viewing it.
- A notification on your phone that takes you to a malicious web page.
- A link that, when clicked, takes you to a fraudulent website to download a virus.
So that you can enjoy all the advantages of interacting safely over the Internet, we have classified the types of spam according to the entry route, the “hook” and the purpose. In this way it will be easier for you to identify it and know how to act in each case.
According to your route of entry
Until now, we have referred to email because it is the most frequent way. However, it is essential that you know other platforms through which you can receive unwanted communications that, sometimes, may be infected with computer viruses:
- By text message (SMS): These are messages from supposed entities, such as a bank or an energy or telecommunications company, asking you to click on a link.
- By instant messaging (chat): In the most popular applications you can also receive chain messages with unwanted advertising and, in some cases, with fraudulent links.
- By popups (messages on websites): When you enter a malicious website, you may receive a notification to allow access to some element of your system; for example, to your Pictures folder or to view your documents.
Also Read: Why Is Data Security So Important In MDM?
According to the “hook”
A second classification takes into account the “hook”, that is, the element they use to capture your attention. It is very important that you know which are the most common so that you know how to detect when they are trying to deceive you. In this way, we identify the following:
- Sweepstakes and opportunities: Messages like “Congratulations on being customer 1000!” or suspiciously cheap products.
- Aesthetics and health: Before/after comparisons or supposed miracle treatments.
- Offers and discounts: Strangely attractive promotions or highly exaggerated discounts.
- Fake News: The so-called fake news that announce the death of a famous person or a catastrophe.
According to your purpose
Finally, it is also convenient to learn to determine what the purpose of the message you have received may be. When in doubt as to whether a communication may be malicious, we recommend that you do not open its content. Prevention is your greatest ally! However, here we detail what are the most common purposes for spam :
- Advertise: This is the purpose of most of the spam messages we receive on a daily basis. For many businesses, this practice is a way to ensure that you always keep their products or services in mind, even if they do not interest you.
- Infect your devices: Through links or attachments, cybercriminals can infect your devices with viruses and other malicious software . Remember not to click on any links or download attachments in spam messages .
- Steal your data: For this, they can install spyware that accesses the personal information stored on your devices. As above, avoiding suspicious clicks and attachment downloads is a great preventative measure.
How can you avoid spam?
If all the users collaborate, we will achieve that they continue to reduce their influence. The most important thing is that you always act under the premise of “the 3 no’s”:
- Don’t follow the chain: When you receive a spam message in any way, delete it and don’t send it to anyone else.
- Don’t fall for deceit: Be wary of overly attractive offers or fraudulent-looking pages.
- Do not give your data: Before providing your email to a website, make sure you read the conditions and that the company or brand that manages that website is respectful of the Data Protection Law.
In addition to these three guidelines that should guide everyone’s behavior, you can take other precautions to keep it at bay.
Have more than one email account
How many email accounts do you have? Many people only manage one or, at most, two. But we recommend that you have at least three:
- The main one, for your daily life: official procedures, important communications, etc.
- One of a secondary nature: to register in forums, companies and promotions.
- Another for your professional life: work emails, job offers and so on.
In this way, you will keep the first and third best protected, which are the most relevant. The second can receive spam from businesses you have subscribed to, but it will not affect your private life or work.
Scan for viruses
All your electronic devices must have a licensed antivirus updated to the latest version. Otherwise, your devices will be less protected against this type of risk and, with it, your personal information. In fact, according to the INE , only 51.5% of the Spanish population verifies that a website where personal information is requested is safe and this can lead to the entry of malware .
Most antivirus can scan an email for viruses . This will help you to know if you can open it or not, although it does not give you 100% security. Because? Mainly, because the virus can be on a web page that you reach through the link that appears in your message. Again, remember to avoid accessing those links that you are not sure where they lead you to.
Create spam lists
In email, you have a default folder where everything you deem unnecessary is stored (usually you’ll identify it as spam ). This does not prevent more messages from arriving at this address, but they are stored without any warning. You can also block it to never receive an email from that sender again.
To do this, you have to select the spam message in your inbox. Afterwards, a series of options will appear, among which “Mark as spam” (or “Mark as spam ”) and “Block recipient” stand out. It all depends on the messaging manager (Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) you use, although they all tend to have spam lists .
Important: Do not try to cancel the subscription
When you spot spam, it’s best not to try to unsubscribe . Many cybercriminals or fraudulent entities include a link that apparently allows you to opt out of receiving their communications again. However, all you are doing is confirming to them that your account is in use and thus making you their target. In other cases, that link can lead us to download malware ( malicious software ).
As we told you before, it is best to add them to the antispam folder or block them. Also, never try to figure out the purpose of the message if it’s not completely clear. It is enough to know that it is an email that you do not want to receive. If you investigate on your own, you will need to open it and, therefore, it will be the gateway to your device.
In short, spam is as common as it is preventable . The most important thing is that you know how to identify it and cut the chain when it reaches your device. This way we will ensure that our inboxes are free of junk communications.