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Be Careful What You Say

Many times email addresses are harvested not from forms that users submit, but by posting the email addresses on the Web. Spammers have numerous tools for extracting email addresses from Web pages and placing them in lists ready to sell or use for unsolicited email. This section describes how spammers harvest email addresses and explains specific steps you can take to block their attempts.

Case Study 1-4

Phil had never worried much about spam at his company. He was responsible for systems used by the headquarters staff, which numbered just over 100 people. Most users averaged fewer than 10 spam emails a week, which was more of an annoyance than a serious problem.

However, two weeks ago complaints started coming in from all over the company. Users were getting a lot more unwanted email, sometimes as much as 100 per day. Phil tried frantically to determine what could be causing this major increase. None of the networking systems had been upgraded or modified during the past month.

Just when Phil decided he might never find out why the increase happened, he received an email from an unexpected source. An old college buddy wrote to catch up on things. Phil asked his buddy how he had found him. His buddy replied that he had found Phil's contact information on the company Web site.

Phil immediately checked the company site on his browser. In a few minutes, he had found the problem. The company directory, including phone numbers and email addresses, had been posted on the Web site. A few phone calls later, Phil discovered that one of the Web site managers had thought that publishing this information would make it easier for customers to contact company employees, instead of making them go through the receptionist. Unfortunately, as Phil discussed with the manager, making information easy to find for customers usually means making it easy for spammers to find as well.



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