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Nearly 80% of email spam traced to under 100 spam operations

Email spam is a riddle yet to be completely solved, but the majority of spam is perpetrated by so few spammers. There are ways you can avoid getting spammed or scammed.

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Most email spam is from the same perpetrators

According to Spamhaus.org, as much as 80% of spam received by Internet users in North America and Europe can be traced to fewer than 100 spammers. Spamhaus maintains the Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO), a database that collates information and evidence on known professional spam operations.

These spammers operate illegally and move from network to network and nation to nation seeking out Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with lax security. ROSKO says they are a “three strikes” register, listing only spammers who have been kicked off of at least three ISPs.

So how does email spam work?

Generally speaking, spammers obtain email addresses from websites and through various means, then deliver spam emails to those addresses attempting to trick email filters, and look legitimate (like fake failure notices). Recipients that are tricked may either click a link that results in a chain of events wherein their email account begins sending out spam links to everyone in their contacts list, their computer is infected with a virus, or they are sent to a website that looks like it is selling legitimate goods, but are not (hence collecting credit card numbers and the like).

How do they make money? Spammers make ad revenue from clicks to pages, or for buying/selling email addresses, or from scamming people into giving them money for non-existent goods or charities. In a study by multiple universities, it was uncovered that 95 percent of revenues email spam perpetrators make is cleared through only three banks.

Not only are email spam operations few in number, the banks clearing their money are fewer.

Related: What is this buzz about 2-step verification, and do you need it?

How to overcome email spam on your own

First and foremost, people should use discretion when giving out their email address and be guarded with it, especially on unknown websites.

Most importantly, avoid clicking any links in any emails when at all possible, unless you know for sure it is from someone you know and trust, and are certain it is not a spam email sent from their account after being hijacked – if you aren’t sure if the link is legitimate, verify by sending a separate email to the person asking if they just emailed you a link.

You should never respond to a spam email, even if it tells you “reply to unsubscribe,” particularly if you’re being sold Viagra or casino chips, or other common targeted spam keywords we’ve all come to know and hate.

Report email spam which is a built in feature of some email services, like Gmail. Alternatively, to take it a step further, forwarding what you believe to be spam to “spam@uce.gov” will get the email into the hands of the federal authorities (the Federal Trade Commission) who add them to a database used to prosecute those who are scamming or practicing deceptive advertising methods. About.com offers several more tips and tricks for fighting email spam.

The takeaway

Although it feels like this problem should have been eradicated by now, it simply is not, so safeguard your email account, especially if you use it for work. These spammers may be few in number, and while the federal government is pursuing their illegal acts, they are vicious in their practices, so the best weapon is awareness.

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Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Kristel Hayes

    February 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for this great info. FYI, tried see the email address noted as “s…@uce.gov ”, but when I click to “reveal full address” I’m met with a captcha death loop.

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Tech News

Time is money and Clockify helps you make the most

(TECH NEWS) Tracking your time worked as a freelancer can easily be lost in the shuffle. A new tool has been designed to make this important aspect easier.

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After years of searching for a method that works for me in terms of organization and productivity, the answer seemed to be simple: a calendar I can write on and Post-It notes. This method is a little old school, but seems to get the job done for my organizational needs.

However, there are some things that slip through the cracks with this method, but it’s more user error than it is the actual practice. One thing I struggle with is keeping track of my freelance hours this way.

I have a tendency to guesstimate how much time I worked throughout the day and know that I wind up underdocumenting my hours. I would hate to know how much money I’ve missed out on keeping (sometimes inaccurate) handwritten notes.

But, like many other small scale issues, there is a simple solution. And that is found in the form of time trackers.

One of the newest members to join the online time tracker team is Clockify, who operates under the idea of “your time, your rules.” It is a free time tracking tool designed for agencies and freelancers.

Clockify allows users to manage as many team members, projects, and workspaces that you need in an effort to help your business run smoothly. This allows for a complete overview of team productivity.

The tool offers a way to enter time manually as well as clock time automatically. This way you can keep tabs on what you’re working on and assign and label time logs to the appropriate clients.

With this time tracking, you are able to generate weekly, monthly, and annual reports at any given time. These reports can be saved, exported, and shared with clients to give them more information about your work process.

The real-time tracking helps to improve business efficiency and gives more insight into what each team member is spending their time on. Having this information available can give visual representation of how to improve in the future.

Clockify currently exists in desktop format with iOS and Android apps coming soon.

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Tech News

Russia vetoed cryptocurrency and came back with CryptoRuble

(TECH NEWS) Russia put a hard pass on other cryptocurrencies in their country so that they could hop in the crypto-game with their own CryptoRuble.

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Just days after The American Genius reported that the Russian Central Bank would attempt to block access to cryptocurrency trading cites, the Coin Telegraph has reported that the Russian government will issue its very own cryptocurrency, the CryptoRuble.

The report cited local Russian papers, who quoted the minister of communications, Nikolay Nikiforov.

Earlier this week, head of the Central Bank, Sergei Shvetsov, said that he would work with the Prosecutor General’s Office to ban Russian citizens from accessing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, calling such currencies a “negative phenomena for our markets” and a “pyramid scheme.”

Now it appears that the Kremlin will create its own cryptocurrency – one it can keep an eye on — which, some might argue, defeats the entire purpose of cryptocurrency.

However, like other cryptocurrencies the CryptoRuble will be based on blockchain and will presumably help prevent online fraud.

CryptoRubles will be exchangeable with regular Rubles, although the systems of exchange have not yet been set up. Experts think that Russia is hoping to stimulate e-commerce without the need for foreign money markets, which will allow them to have more independence from the United States.

According to Nikiforov, the Russian government is setting up its own cryptocurrency under the assumption that if they don’t, other European governments will.

Said NIkiforov, “I confidently declare that we run CryptoRuble for one simple reason: if we do not, then after two months our neighbors in the EurAsEC will.”

Traders using CryptoRubles will be asked to provide documentation of retail transactions and services rendered – or pay a 13 percent tax for undocumented transactions, leaving a wide loophole for money laundering.

Critics say that Russia is trying to facilitate, while also profiting from money laundering; that the Kremlin is stealing the market from other cryptocurrencies; and that the CryptoRuble fundamentally defies the spirit of decentralization that inspired other cryptocurrencies.

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Microsoft’s overseas email storage piqued the Supreme Court’s interest

(TECH NEWS) Microsoft has been in a pretty large dispute about storing user emails abroad and the Supreme Court has taken an interest in it.

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The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a case that will decide whether or not U.S. law enforcement officials can force tech companies to turn over emails and data stored in overseas servers.

The case will review a lower court decision made in 2013 after federal officials attempted to obtain emails from Microsoft that would provide evidence for drug trafficking cases.

At that time, Microsoft refused to comply with the government, even though they had a warrant, instead taking the case to court, claiming that the U.S. government did not have the right to access data stored in servers in Ireland.

The court of appeals ruled in favor of Microsoft, citing a 1986 digital privacy law that allows law enforcement to obtain warrants for electronic communications, but not if the data is stored outside of the United States.

Judge Susan Carney said of the law, “Neither explicitly nor implicitly does the statue envision the application of its warrant provisions overseas.”

The Trump Administration and the Justice Department say that this ruling has majorly blocked efforts to prosecute criminals.

“Under this opinion, hundreds if not thousands of investigations of crimes — ranging from terrorism, to child pornography, to fraud — are being or will be hampered by the government’s inability to obtain electronic evidence,” said Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall.

Because Microsoft stores data and communications closest to the user’s location, Wall said that the lower court’s decision made it all too easy for terrorists and other criminals to hide their communications by claiming to live in a foreign country when signing up for an account.

Microsoft argues that, instead of handing this decision over to the Supreme Court, legislators should update the 1986 law.

“The current laws were written for the era of the floppy disk, not the world of the cloud.” wrote Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith in a blog.

“We believe that rather than arguing over an old law in court, it is time for Congress to act by passing new legislation.”

In Congress, Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) are pushing for just such an update with a piece of legislation called the Stored Communications Act.

Microsoft further argued that allowing U.S. law enforcement to obtain data from other countries was an “incursion” on those nations’ sovereignty, which would make U.S. citizens more vulnerable to foreign governments.

“If U.S. law enforcement can obtain the emails of foreigners stored outside the United States, what’s to stop the government of another country from getting your emails even though they are located in the United States?” said Smith.

The Justice Department says that, along with Microsoft, Google, Verizon, and Yahoo have all stopped complying with search warrants since the lower court’s decision.

The Supreme Court will hear the case early in 2018 and hope to have a decision by June.

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