Better safe than sorry Featured

6:50am EDT February 24, 2005
Implementing a best practices policy regarding e-mail use and Web surfing can be an effective tool in minimizing the amount of spam and spyware you receive.

Accordingly, it will also prevent problems -- including loss of productivity -- that may result from leaving your system exposed.

While these policies should not be considered rock solid or complete for any organization, they will considerably help your battle against spam and spyware. Below is a list of practices you should consider.

* Never make a purchase from an unsolicited e-mail. If spamming weren't profitable, no one would do it. Not only could you fall prey to a false sales campaign, you potentially could have your e-mail address sold to other spam lists.

* If you don't know the sender of an e-mail, delete it. Although most spam is just text messages, some contain viruses or spyware.

* Never reply to a spam message or click on any of its links. Replying to any spam message, even to unsubscribe or be removed from the list, only confirms that your e-mail account is valid and active.

* Avoid using the preview pane in e-mail client software. Many spammers are using techniques that can track when a message is viewed, even if you don't click on the message or reply. Using the preview pane can let spammers know that you are a valid recipient.

* When sending an e-mail to multiple people, use the blind carbon copy (BCC) field to conceal e-mail addresses. This will prevent spammers from harvesting e-mail accounts.

* Never provide your e-mail address on Web sites, newsgroup lists or other online public forums. Many spammers use tools to obtain e-mail addresses from public information and forums.

* Never give your primary e-mail address to anyone or any site you don't trust. Share your address with only your close friends or colleagues.

* Consider having a secondary e-mail address. If you need to fill out a form or survey at a Web site, use the secondary address. Always look for the box regarding future information/offers and uncheck this option unless absolutely necessary.

* Delete e-mail with the following extensions -- .BAT, .VBS, .SHS, .SCR, .COM, .EXE, .CHM or .DLL. It is unlikely that you will need to receive e-mail with these extensions, and they could contain malicious software.

* Avoid get-rich-quick offers, porn or too-good-to-be-true e-mail messages.

* Do not download or install software applications without fully reading license agreements. Some software installs imply your permission for them to load spyware on your system.

* Don't download software, music, files or photos from nontrusted sources or use file-sharing applications (like Kazaa). Spyware or viruses may be attached.

* Be aware of the types of sites you're visiting. The more devious or shady the site, the more likely it will to have adware or spyware attached.

* Control browser settings to maintain secure Internet browsing.

* Don't click on pop-ups. Close them by the upper right corner X. Do not click anywhere in a pop-up window, including the YES or NO -- this may cause a spyware install in the background. A similar pop-up ploy asks you to accept a download, then won't stop popping up until you do what it wants. Use software or browsers that block pop-ups.

Randy Wear is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide, to increase client's productivity and profitability. Reach him at rwear@dspi.com or (847) 544-5818.