Spam was originally used as a means of advertising and the term now is used to describe any unwanted and unsolicited emails. At its most basic, it usually includes adverts for anything ranging from pornography, online gambling, 'get rich quick' schemes or suspect pharmaceuticals (e.g. 'Herbal Viagra'). In addition to the fact that it is annoying, it is a waste of bandwidth and mailbox space and quite often includes offensive images. From a security point of view, Spam will often include attempts to get your personal details from you (via a technique referred to as 'phishing'), or viruses or malware which could damage both your machine and the wider network.
Is it Spam?
These types of emails will generally meet some or all of the following criteria:
- They will be from someone you don't know (although if a friend's email has been compromised they could be from someone you know but be about something you wouldn't associate with them, e.g. a recommendation to purchase something random, from your parents)
- Have strange spellings or odd use of capital letters
- Be selling something
- Have a subject line which is completely different from the contents of the message
- Have an urgent call to action ( 'Your mail box will be closed if you don't validate now!' or 'We will close your account if you do not supply these details')
- Sound too good to be true
Your email provider's spam filter can stop a lot of these mails getting into your inbox but it is important to remember that as the content and tactics of these mails are constantly changing, no filter is invincible, so stay vigilant.