Public Email Addresses Cause a Lot of Spam

The Inter-Department debate

Within most of the companies there are two views about how the technology should be used.
Marketing is always looking for ways to attract people to get potential customers involved in Companies’ activities. Sometimes they would do anything to make the Web site visitors rise, even if this doesn’t translate into sales. There is a little desperation in their actions. Many times this translates into SPAM, and exposure to other attacks.
On the other hand the IT infrastructure will always try to secure as much as possible forgetting that tightening up too much will make the customer go away.
It takes a good collaboration between the Marketing and the IT department to insure the best balance between a secure IT environment and the maximum interaction with your potential clients.
It also takes well trained personnel and the training need to be interdisciplinary. For instance Marketing need Technology knowledge and IT need Marketing knowledge.
Following I will present some of the frequent mistakes I encountered in my experience as an IT administrator. I will underline the misconception behind some of these mistakes and show what can be done to correct them.

Common Mistakes when Publishing Email Contacts and How to fix the Mistakes

A common mistake of Marketing is to publish email addresses on Internet. The misconception is that people are not comfortable to use forms and they will run away from a contact form because it involves more effort in order to contact someone within the company.
This is a partial true. This depends on the way your company makes business and on the product you sell. If you sell an inexpensive product and the main goal is to expedite the process then make a contact address public could be a way. This is the easiest and the most convenient way of making yourself available, (after phone). If you sell an expensive product/service, a contact address for support then you should go with Web Contact Forms.
Using a Web Contact Form is the most secure and easy way to maintain email communication. You can publish the link of this form on any website, Social Networking site, or Web profile.
If you are not using Web-forms the amount of SPAM once you publish your email address on Internet is exponential; once your email gets discovered by spider bots is going to be used more and more.
Your contact email address doesn’t have to be published on Internet.   Whoever is looking to get in contact with your company will take the time to fill in a form and a CAPTCHA field. Or they can call; you should publish your phone numbers on the Web.
Or even better setup a chat page on your website and have an option so that you client can request a phone call. Most of the times a company will get better deals for Long Distance calls than a consumer.
On the Social Media profiles use contact forms and links to your website’s contact form instead of publishing an email address.
Social Media pages are very popular and they are crawled more often than other content types. Any email address published will be discovered very quickly by spider-bots.
If your business cannot function without a published email address you can take a few measures to minimize the impact on your system:
Publish an image of your email address and not the email address html coded. This will prevent bots to discover your email addresses while providing users a public email address.
If this is still not acceptable and you want the email address to be a clickable email link, be prepared to change the public email address on a regular basis.
When you change a public email address, set up automatic reply on the old ones and keep the account active for a while. The automatic reply message should point to the newest email address.
Automatic SPAM software will not know that the email has changed and a legitimate sender will get the reply with the newest email address.
The automatic reply should also mention the website page that contains the newest contact information. (Let’s say you changed three email addresses within a week, a client who added you in their Address Book a week ago will have to send three emails to reach you.
The email addresses should be rather complex than intuitive, see this article for explanations:Preventing Domain Name Spam.
Create and maintain a list with all of the Web Pages and Social media sites accounts that use the public email address. This way you won’t forget to make the change everywhere when you need to update the contact info.
Use personal Antispam filters such as: Mailwasher, (free and Pro versions), ChoiceMail One, Spam Killer, CA Anti-Spam, SpamNet, Spam Agent, SPAMfighter, Spam Buster, iHateSpam, SpamBully, Intego Personal Antispam X5, etc…
Another common mistake is to mix up personal communication with business communication.
The reasoning behind this is that: “I am going to give the address only to friends so it’s safe”. Nothing more wrong, there is always one of your friends that will get hacked, personal computers are more prone to be infected and your address will get used and distributed to SPAM lists. See here a more detailed explanation: Ho to prevent Spam.
Never use your business email address for personal stuff. It will end up spammed. Do not use it to exchange email messages with friends, to subscribe to online services etc…
Do not use a personal business email address to create online accounts even if they are business related. Use generic accounts that you afford to change at any time.

Information For System Administrators

Implement SPF – see this article.
Train your users and implement written policies about the email usage within the company.
Use different domain names for web presence and for daily correspondence.
If you are a system administrator you can look at various corporate targeted solutions to reduce spam.
Corporate Level Antispam Solutions
Server Based Antispam Software, Antispam Appliances (Gateway based Anti-Spam), Hosted antispam filtering.
A few solutions no necessarily the best: are Google Postini, Barracuda Networks, MailFoundry, IronPort, Spamassassin, SPAMD (BSD), Trend Micro, GFI MailEssentials, MailMarshal, Symantec Brightmail, and Roaring Penguins’ CanIt Pro.
More Antispam solutions here: Comercial Antispam Solutions

Remember is always better to prevent than to fix.

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