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You are the anti-spam: Plain text emails

Since the introduction of the Internet/Arpanet and the Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP), email has changed the way we communicate. We supply a destination address, type in a message and click send. In an instant, our message is delivered to our recipient. It was elegant, simplistic, fast and easy to use... Which always means, someone has to flip it on its end and complicate the whole matter.

Now we live with HTML Email or Rich Text Email. Flashy colors, huge bolded words, pure red text on a pure blue, Mozart MIDI music file playing in the background... oh and lets not forget the stunning graphic of the mystical Unicorn. Wow! How email has advanced. Somewhere in there is a message... I think, after all the email was 200k, it must be important.

Now enough of my ranting, on to the link between HTML email and Spam.

You know those emails you get that have a bunch of random words or phrases and a small picture? That is not spam. It's more like Phishing (which we'll get more into in a later article). The game is to send out emails to random addresses and test to see if they are active and currently in use. Here's how it works. I'll break it down into points and relate it to a single case scenario (i.e. a spammer targeting your email), in reality the scheme is working on millions of email addresses.

1) The spammer sends you an HTML email with a link to a graphic file. The link includes a encoded unique id that is matched to your email address. (Example: "http:\\eAzdmH.spamiscool.com/graphic.gif") At this point, the spammer does not know if your email address is real or not.

2) You check your mail.

3) Your email program opens up the spammer's message and displays the graphic.

4) The spammer checks if anyone has accessed the link "http:\\eAzdmH.spamiscool.com/graphic.gif", looks up the email address that had the unique id or "eAzdmH". The spammer now knows that your email address if real and includes it to his spam list. After he's done sending you spam, your email address is sold on the open spam market for others spammers

This is just the Anti-Spam reason to send and receive plain text emails. In a later article, I will touch on the Anti-Virus and Anti-Spy/Malware reasons to avoid HTML emails.

 

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