This is the summary of a lecture I recently gave to a local group of small business owners about email marketing and spam.

E-mail Marketing and Spam
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by Alex Kahl, Kahl Consultants

 

What is Spam?
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Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages.

* e-mail spam
* instant messaging spam,
* newsgroup spam,
* Web search engine spam,
* blog spam,
* mobile phone messaging spam,
* junk fax transmissions.


How much?
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Kahl Consultants receives approx. 10,000 spams per day (but only has to read abut 10-20)
Bill Gates receives 4 million spams per year
In 2001: spam accounted for 5% of all e-mail .
In 2007: 95-98% of all E-mail is spam
Spam costs businesses over US$20 billion per year - lost productivity, additional equipment, software, and manpower


Why Spam?
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E-mail is extremely cheap. Spamming can be very profitable even at extremely low response rates.


Who Spams?
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28% USA
5% South Korea, 5% China, 5% Russia
80% of US spam is generated by a group of 200 hardcore professional spam gangs


How is spam sent out?
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Most ISPs do NOT allow spam. So spammers conceal the origins of their spam by sending it through insecure servers belonging to unwilling third parties. These "zombie networks" of infected PCs span the globe


How do spammers get my e-mail address?
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* E-mail addresses posted on Web sites in plain HTML (unobscured) attract the most spam as they are harvested by spambots
* Basic e-mail addresses (short names, initials like bob@ or tse@, basic combinations like larryt@ receive more spam
* "brute force" or "dictionary attacks" (e-mail is sent to common surnames and first initials)


Fighting Spam
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Best solution: an "Antispam Cocktail" (a mix of strategies)

* Remove or obscure address from public websites
* Use multiple e-mail addresses; create a free email account (aka disposable e-mail address)
for use when registering with websites (recommendation: Gmail)
* DNS-based blackhole lists (lists of IP addresses of known spammers, open relays, zombie spammers etc)
* Don't respond to spam from unknown companies
* Don't buy from a company that spams. Don't visit their website, don't ask for more information
* Disable HTML in email software
* Switch from Outlook to another email software (recommendation: Mozilla Thunderbird)
* Set up multiple levels of spam filtration
* Contact your ISP and ask for help setting up a spam filter
* Use spam filtering in your email client (* Spam filters detect spam based on the content of the e-mail)


Kahl Consultants and Spam
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* Strict no-spam policy
* Hosting clients caught spamming are terminated
* 2 levels of spam filtration on our website servers (blacklists and SpamAssassin)
* Request our clients to help fight spam


Kahl Consultants and Email Marketing
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* We support our clients in all forms of online marketing (web and email)
* Email marketing cheaper than website marketing, both are best done synergetically
* We practice double opt-in email marketing
* We set up and monitor email campaigns (e.g. constantcontact.com)