Spam FAQs

See: Glossary of terminology »

Q: What is spam?

A: Spam is a term for unwanted email. The term covers undesirable emails sent by vendors, as well as scams and advertisements sent by infected PCs known as ‘spam bots’. These PCs are usually part of a larger network of infected computers known as ‘bot nets.’

Q: How do I report SPAM?

A: Forward the message and the header information to the abuse department of the domain it came from. So if the e-mail came from spammer@yahoo.com you would want to forward the information to abuse@yahoo.com. The responsible party for the domain should deal with their user according to their terms of use and/or will give the domain owners a heads up on a possible security hole.’

Q: Why do I get spam?

A: Anybody in the world can send you an email if they know your email address. While OnlineNW emails have a spam filter in place that blocks most of the spam before it shows up in your inbox, these messages are crafted by people with the awareness that they are working against spam filters, and their goal is to change up their technique fast enough to outpace the filtering updates we employ.

Q: I get X spam a day, what can I do to reduce this?

A: Unfortunately there’s no single technique that will stop spam from coming in. Usually your email address is just part of a very large list of collected email addresses, used for advertising purposes. often a snowball effect because there’s no limit on the amount of times that list could be duplicated and sold. Our customers do have an option to set their per-account mail filter to more aggressive settings, which can reduce the filtered spam by a slight amount. Unfortunately, doing so also increases the likelihood of a legitimate message getting blocked as spam.

If you would like make your spam filtering more aggressive, you can log into <http://webmail.onlinenw.com > and click “antispam settings” on the lower left of the blue column. There you can change your email account’s mail filter from ‘normal’, which is the default, to ‘strict’. The ‘w/ quarantine’ options move the spam messages to the spam folder in webmail, instead of blocking them outright. This can be done if you believe that some messages that you want to recieve are being filtered out by our mail server. Keep in mind that when you set your spam filtering to strict, you are employing settings that may increase the chance that a legitimate mail gets blocked, so the quarantine might be a useful option if you have any concerns about this.

Another means to control your spam filtering, is the “From: whitelist”, which is at the bottom of the antispam settings page. It can be used to add email addresses and domains that you always want to receive mail from. For example, if you want to white list <support@onlinenw.com>, you would type in that address into the field, and click “add”.

The “From: blacklist” will prevent any mail from coming through, and can be used very similarly to the white list. Keep in mind no spam will ever have the same From: field twice, so blocking spam by the sender’s supposed email address, will not reduce the amount of spam you get. We would only recommend using this is you no longer wish to receive correspondances from a legitimate source.

The “Subject: blacklist” will allow you to filter out subjects that you do not want to receive mail about. Keep in mind this can backfire if used too broadly. If you filter out “car”, it may filter out any email which has a subject containing those 3 letters in that order, instead of just the word ‘car’. Another possibility, is that one might forget that they put a specific word on that list to filter out some auto loan spam, and then need to email somebody regarding a vehicle for sale, and then not be able to get the reply. We do not recommend you use the subject blacklist, as it generally will not filter a significant amount of spam, and is just as likely to block something legitimate in many cases. 

Q: I block spam email when I receive it, but it doesn't seem to affect the amount I get per day.

A: Blocking/blacklisting specific email addresses does not reduce spam. Spammers randomly generate email addresses when they send out messages, and you’ll not be able to block any further emails that way. The exception to this would be scam emails, but most of the time they will request you send email to a different address than the one in the from: field.

Q: My mail client allows me to bounce messages back to the sender. Does this help deter spammers?

A: When you employ this method, you are basically generating a failure notice for every bounced email, that makes it back to our mail server. From our end, it’s difficult to differentiate from an infected computer sending out spam. In addition, it does not deter spammers because all it does is bounce it back to a fake address.

Q: I received an email, that is claiming to be from myself, what can I do to address this?

A: If you set your mail filtering to ‘strict’ (see above), any mail coming to you that has your email in the to: field will be blocked. Keep in mind this can prevent you from emailing yourself.

Q: I received an email that has a number of OnlineNW customers in it, does this mean that OnlineNW's mail server got hacked?

A: It’s much more likely that the email addresses were obtianed from a few unmaintained computers that have OnlineNW customers in their address book. The same malware that causes a computer to send out spam, often search the computer’s hard drive for email addresses to add. When a spam/scam email message is addressed to mulitple email addresses at the same domain, it is usually to try to get around some of the limits that a mail server will place on invalid recipients.

Q: Can my computer get malware from an email?

A: You cannot get infected by looking at the text of an email. However, clicking on a web link in an email can cause your computer to get attacked, because many infections come from websites that try to exploit security flaws on the computer. Another method of attack involves trying to get the user to click on, and run an attachment which contains some attack software. Some scam emails also try to get you to submit your password on a web form so they can use your email account to send out more spam.

Q: I got a scam email. What should I do, and who needs to be made aware?

A: Scam/phishing emails are very common, and many of them are easy to detect. Some common indicators of a scam email are: poor grammar use, a lack of information about the recipient (usually all the scammer knows is your email address, and the company listed in the domain), and an unprofessional email layout. However, not all scam emails are so obvious, so it’s good to be wary of emails requesting information from you, or emails that require you to click on web links. In general, no legitimate institution will ever ask for your password, and it’s very unlikely that they will request any sensitive personal information over email. If you are unsure of the legtimacy of an email, but it’s an organization that you have business with, find a means outside of the email in question to contact them. Use a known-good phone number, or google search the organization’s website. It can be very difficult to track down the source of a scam, because most of the time they are working through a compromised email account, and possibly through any number of infected computers. If you wish to report a scam to a government institution, you can use the form located here: http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

 


Glossary of Terms

Attachment: An external file(s), i.e., image, audio, video or other data file, that is “attached” to be sent with an email message. It is best to limit the total size of attachments to 10 MB or smaller.

Autoresponder: A computer program that automatically responds with a prewritten message to anyone who sends an email message to a particular email address or uses an online feedback form.

Blacklist: A list containing email addresses or IP addresses of suspected spammers. Blacklists are sometimes used to reject incoming mail at the server level before the email reaches the recipient.

Block: An action by an Internet Service Provider to prevent email messages from being forwarded to the end recipient.

Bounces: Email messages that fail to reach their intended destination. “Hard” bounces are caused by invalid email addresses, whereas “soft” bounces are due to temporary conditions, such as overloaded inboxes.

Email Client: This is the type of program you use to use to download your mail and view it. Common mail clients are Outlook, Outlook Express, Mac Mail, Windows Live Mail, Windows Mail.

Email header: The section of an email message that contains the sender’s and recipient’s email addresses as well as the routing information.

Webmail: Instead of using a ‘mail client’ to check your email, you can check email through a website. Our webmail interface is located at <http://webmail.onlinenw.com>.

IMAP: Internet Message Access Protocol – A protocol used to retrieve email messages. Most email clients use either the IMAP or the POP protocol.

IP address: An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique identifier for a computer on the Internet. It is written as four numbers separated by periods. Each number can range from 0 to 255. Before connecting to a computer over the Internet, a Domain Name Server translates the domain name into its corresponding IP address.

Mail Server: The place where the mail is initially stored, before it gets downloaded into a Mail Client.

Malware: A general term for malicious software. Viruses, trojans, worms, browser hijackers, adware, and spyware are all classifications of malware.

Plain text: Text in an email message that contains no formatting elements.

POP: Post Office Protocol – A protocol used to retrieve email from a mail server. Most email clients use either the POP or the newer IMAP protocol.

Rich media: An Internet advertising term for a Web page that uses graphical technologies such as streaming video, audio files or other similar technology to create an interactive atmosphere with viewers.

Sender ID: Sender ID is an authentication protocol used to verify that the originating IP address is authorized to send email for the domain name declared in the visible “From” or “Sender” lines of the email message. Sender ID is used to prevent spoofing and to identify messages with visible domain names that have been forged.

Signature file: A short text file that email users can automatically append at the end of each message they send. Commonly, signature files list the user’s name, phone number, company, company URL, etc.

SMTP: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol – A protocol used to send email on the Internet. SMTP is a set of rules regarding the interaction between a program sending email and a program receiving email.

Snail mail: Traditional or surface mail sent through postal services such as the USPS.

Spam: (Also known as unsolicited commercial email) – Unwanted, unsolicited junk email sent to a large number of recipients.

Spoofing: The disreputable and often illegal act of falsifying the sender email address to make it appear as if an email message came from somewhere else.

Subject line: The part of an email message where senders can type what the email message is about. Subject lines are considered important by email marketers because they can often influence whether a recipient will open an email message. Virus: A program, macro or fragment of code that causes damage and can be quickly spread through Web sites or email

Web Browser  (or just “Browser”): This is the type of program that allows you to view websites. Common browsers include Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Chrome.

Whitelist: A list of pre-authorized email addresses from which email messages can be delivered regardless of spam filters.