Do we still care about spam?


Has spam lost its sting?

Remember when spam was public enemy Number One? When it threatened to completely swamp our inboxes, cripple the internet, destroy civilisation and plunge the world into a thousand years of darkness? Spam was the Next Big Threat, but it was a threat that went off with a whimper rather than a bang.

At this point some people will argue that email is dead anyway, but I think they're jumping the gun. I agree that consumers are using email less and less. If I need to contact a friend I generally turn to social media or text messaging rather than email or the phone. But email is still my primary communications method for work and I think that's the case with many businesses. I like the fact that email is searchable, archivable, mobile and asynchronous.

Of course spam isn't dead. We've just gradually learned to live with it. One lesson we've learned is to be more careful when handing out our email addresses. These days people tend not to publish their email address on websites where they can be easily read by spiders scouring the web. We're also more careful about handing over our email addresses when signing up up for things and filling out forms. Some email services let you create aliases or one-off addresses for such things, but I think many of us have an old Hotmail account that we only use when signing up for things.

These precautions certainly reduce the amount of spam that comes your way, but spam filtering technology has also improved to the point where very few spam messages or phishing attempts manage to creep through into my inbox. I've also added a few filtering rules to pluck out some regular spam that managed to fool my spam filter. False positives are extremely rare and my mail provider's spam filtering has improved over time as it learns from my corrections. It also scans for viruses and dodgy links which look like phishing attempts. The spam filtering on webmail services such as Gmail is also very good and benefits from analysing the habits of millions of users.

My email provider's spam filtering is now accurate enough that I've recently told it to delete email marked spam rather than leave it in my junk mail folder. A few still manage to slip through into my inbox, but it's small inconvenience rather than the end of the world.

Are you swamped with spam? How do you deal with it?

This story Do we still care about spam? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.