Fighting back Featured

8:18am EDT November 26, 2002
It recently came to my attention that a number of our employees have been receiving unsolicited pornography via e-mail.

This bothered me for several reasons. First, I don't appreciate e-mails of this nature being sent to our business. Second, we have been receiving them for some time. And I had no clue we were receiving them.

Just when you think you have a good handle on the business, you find out about something like this and feel pretty stupid.

I suggest doing an internal survey to see what kind of information your employees are receiving in their e-mail. If they are receiving offensive or unsolicited material, it may be time to try to reduce the problem.

Here are several steps you can take to cut down the amount of unsolicited e-mails, or spam, your company receives.

* Filter your mail server. Talk to your IT department about applying filters that will help prevent some spam from ever reaching your computer. The IP addresses of known spammers can be blocked to prevent future mailings. There are also RBLs, or Real Time Black Lists, of known spammers your mail server will scan before accepting mail.

* Filter your computer. As a last line of defense, you can install antispam software such as McAfee Spam Killer or Norton Internet Security, which help identify and block spam with little effort on your part.

* Go on the offensive. Contact the spammer's Internet Service Provider and report the abuse. This sounds simple, but oftentimes the real return address is hidden or filtered, and it takes some know-how to find the original source. Contact your own ISP. ISPs can bring legal action against spammers and collect up to $500,000 in damages.

* Demand restitution from the spammer. According to an Ohio law that went into effect in November, penalties of $100 for each piece of spam and up to $50,000 and attorney's fees, court and other costs can be recovered by companies subjected to illegal, unsolicited commercial e-mail.

* Contact your representatives. Tougher laws against spam are needed at the federal level. Contact your representatives and tell them spam is costing your business time and money.

Spam has become a major problem. Instead of focusing on our business, we are dealing with unsolicited e-mails containing offensive pornography, gambling offers and get-rich-quick schemes. Think about how much time and money we waste deleting unwanted e-mails, setting up filtering systems or handling employee complaints. This is time and money that should be focused on business, not spam.

Let's hope that tougher laws will be passed that will put the spammers out of business and allow us to get back to work.