Turscar is the Irish word for spam emails. It is also one of the Irish words for seaweed. It specifically refers to dead, useless seaweed that stinks up the shorelines. This seems apt, as spam emails are unwanted, unsolicited junk correspondence, usually sent out in bulk to an indiscriminate list of email addresses. No one wants spam. They are often autogenerated and sent in volume by botnets. Botnets are networks of infected computers who have been hijacked for this purpose. Sounds sinister, but spam emails are basically just junk mail or the internet’s dead and washed-up seaweed. Like most junk mail, they are usually confined to the trash bin immediately. The email provider, or Google, will dump most of them in a spam folder and only the odd one makes its way to front and center in your general mail.
Why am I getting lots of spam?
One of the most common reasons for a sudden influx of spam emails may be because your email has been added to a mailing list. A mailing list is just that, a collection of email addresses used by others to send out promotional emails, otherwise known as junk mail. This can include marketing information and newsletters offering bargains in shoe stores you never heard of services from experts in far off lands that you have never been to and the odd email that is genuinely meant to reach you (more about that later!). Your email may have been shared publicly or leaked and subsequently sold. Your email address may have been collected and sold to third parties when you were purchasing items online. Or your email may have been part of a data breach. Finally, some spammers test out or guess email addresses, putting a first name and a second name with a common level domain, such as .com added to the end.
How serious are Spam emails?
Most of the spam emails we receive daily have a higher nuisance than threat value. They fill up the in box and irritate but remain unread and consigned to the spam folder till they are eventually trashed. However, some spam emails are more lethal and can be attempting to get your personal information, usernames, credit card details etc. These often look as if they come from legitimate sources and can look like very professional but are malicious in nature and fake as fake can be. For the most part, spam email is relatively harmless unless, you have downloaded files or attachments, responded with personal private information and clicked on links.
Should I open spam emails?
That would be a no! Opening a spam email, even without clicking on any links, may not compromise your data, but it will give the sender some information on you and keep you in their sights for more cyber attacking and spamming. Worst case scenario is that the email contains malware which will cause some serious damage. Do not open a spam email.
Should I click on links in a suspect email?
That would be a hard No! Do not open links or scan QR codes or download files. If you have downloaded one in error, and feel that you are compromised, there are some immediate steps which you can take. Change all your password of any online accounts, including social media and shopping accounts. Scan the computer for malware and viruses. Back up your files and disconnect from the network. Without a connection, there is less chance of that any virus can send information to hackers.
Should I respond to a spam email?
Nope and nope and nope again! Do not even ‘unsubscribe’, unless you know the source of the junk email. If a hacker is ‘testing’ the email, you will be confirming to less ethical senders, that you are a live address and invite them to use it again.
What about regular mail going to spam?
In a cruel twist as in box providers ,such as Google, work hard to identify spam emails, more and more genuine emails are sent to spam folders as a precautionary measure. If they lack authentication and raise red flags, then they will be quarantined in the spam. As more and more AI generated emails flood our correspondence, the in-box providers deem them to be auto generated and therefore junk mail, even if this is not always the case. Better to be sure than sorry is the mantra for all security including cyber! Check your spam folder lists often to see if that one important email has been hidden there. Reinstate it, by opening and clicking ‘Report Not Spam’. But be certain that you know the origin of the email and pay particular attention that the sending address has not been cloned or cyber squatted (link to blog on cyber squatting) where the sending address is almost the same, but not quite. If you are signed up to newsletters and MailChimp and failed to open the previous correspondence, it is likely that any new missives will be sent to the bold corner that is the spam folder.
Simple ways to stop spam emails.
There are practical ways to reduce the amount of spam you receive. Block email addresses that you feel are suspicious. Change your email privacy settings. Delete suspicious emails. Report spam to your inbox provider. Use a different, alias or burner email for shopping accounts, and new accounts, thereby protecting your main email from the bulk of junk mail. Unsubscribe from legitimate lists that you no longer are interested in. Remove your email from public view on your website, social media accounts and anywhere else it might be. Make sure your antivirus protection is up to date on all your devices.
Like junk mail thrown through the letterbox at home, spam emails are a part of our daily life of surfing the world wide web. But like old dead seaweed on the shore, we can skip over it and manage those irritating spam emails without further repercussions.