Be a spam-fighting superhero this July 4th Independence Day

Global recession? What global recession?

If there’s one industry which is booming, despite the tough economic times, it’s cybercrime – and nowhere is that more obvious to the average man in the street than the sector of cybercrime that concerns itself with spam.

As researchers at Symantec have described, entrepreneurial spammers aren’t afraid of working all the days that God gives them, including national holidays, to earn a dishonest crust for themselves.

Whether they are promoting cheap automobiles, office supplies or (the all too familiar) pharmaceuticals to help you create fireworks in the bedroom, spammers will use every trick in the book to get you to reach into your pocket and enter your credit card details.

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July 4th spam

Sure, some of these spam messages *might* actually result in you being sent goods (although I would be dubious as to their quality), but don’t forget – whoever was behind these campaigns has already proven themselves to be shady by the sheer fact that they are resorting to unsolicited junk mail to promote their products… should you really trust them with your credit card details?

Here’s the simple rule: never buy products promoted through spam. Product-pushing spam only exists because the spammers know that a small proportion of the recipients will be tempted to make a purchase or click on a link. If no-one bought these goods, there simply would be no sense in the spammers sending out their nuisance messages.

Of course, sending spam to hundreds of thousands of people through compromised botnets of computers is very cheap, so the spammers only need a tiny percentage of people to respond to make it worth their while. So, another way in which you can fight back is by ensuring that your computers are properly defended with security patches and up-to-date anti-virus software to ensure that your PC or Mac hasn’t been hijacked into a spam-spewing botnet.

In fact, here’s a good thing you can do if you are spending July 4th with your family. Why not check your relatives’ computers to ensure that they are running the very latest version of your anti-virus software, and are up-to-date with their operating system, Java, Adobe, Microsoft Office, and other patches.

If we all work together, we can make it much harder for the spammers to earn a living, and perhaps encourage them to take a long long holiday from cybercrime in the future.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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