What is Spam?
Simply put, spam is, “…flooding the Internet with many copies of the same message, in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it” (from SpamAbuse.net).
Most of us are all too familiar with spam in our email inboxes, although email providers are getting better at fighting spammers all the time. When it comes to spam on websites, blogs and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, spam usually shows up in the form of a link-filled comment, post, or tweet. The links lead unsuspecting clickers to websites that can install malware, spyware or viruses on innocent computers. Even trickier: these links are often masked as short links (e.g. bitly links) to make it more difficult for your to deduce that it’s spam.
Tips for Fighting Spam:
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to reduce your exposure to spammers and even fight back against them.
This is the first post in a four-part series about fighting spam. This week I’m going to give two tips for fighting spam that will help you across all of your online homes. Next week I’ll share tips for combating spam on your blog, and the week after that, dealing with spammers on Twitter. For the final post in the series, I’ll write about beating spammers on Facebook.
For now, here are my two golden rules of combating spam across any platform. If you’re a pro-spam fighter yourself (and even if you’re not), please do share some more tips of your own in the comments below!
1. If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is:
This might seem like an obvious tip, but it’s worth remembering when it comes to spammers online. Spammers are getting smarter — they will attempt to appeal to your emotions, which can make spam really, really hard to detect. For example, when I first started blogging, I remember spending a lot of time trying to determine if a comment that went something like this was for real:
My brother told me about your site and how much he liked it, so I had to check it out! Your[sic] doing great posts here! Keep up the good work!
Seems harmless and nice, right? Well, had I approved that comment, anyone who clicked on the website the sneaky spammer had provided would have been treated to a nasty computer virus.
Watch for typos, weird urls or email addresses (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) and blanket comments that don’t specifically refer to something included in one of your posts or tweets. And before approving any comments or clicking any links, always ask yourself if it’s too good to be true.
2. Create Strong Passwords & (Maybe) Change Them Regularly:
Create Strong Passwords:
On all social media sites (blogs included) it’s a good idea to create really strong passwords so hackers — spammers’ evil cousins — can’t get into your accounts and spread their evil spammy links. Of course this isn’t news to anyone; we’ve all been warned to create strong passwords. But what makes a strong password?
There are apps you can use to manage your passwords and create super strong ones (I like 1 Password; it’s good, but pricey). I’ve also read that one of the best ways to create a secure password could be to use a sentence or phrase.
For more tips on creating strong passwords, check out this post, The Ultimate Guide to Creating Strong Passwords.
(Maybe) Change Them Regularly:
I’ve read mixed things about changing passwords on a regular basis: some people say it’s a waste of time, while others swear it helps reduce hacking/spamming. I err on the side of caution and try to make changes to the passwords I use most often every few months.
What do you do to help combat spam online? Have you even run into a particularly sneaky spammer?