In appears that spam, the every loving nickname for junk mail sent via e-mail, may be on its wane.
According to a recent finding by the cyber security firm Symantec, less than half (49.7%) of e-mails scanned by the company and its software last June were considered to be junk, the lowest percentage it had seen since 2003. This includes e-mail messages that include malware attachements-programs that when opened can attack a computer’s operating system to obtain information or perform some devious function, as well as “pfishing” (pronounced as “fishing” as the P is silent) that seeks user’s names and passwords to secure websites. However, the sources of malware makers are on the increase.
Adding to the report, spammers based in China and the Eastern Europe nations still reply on email to lure people to buy counterfeit goods and questionable pharmaceuticals. In spite of this, these spammers are still finding out ways to make money from folks going online.
Spam has been one of the earliest notions to hit the cyberspace world since e-mails started to become available to a mainstream public in the middle 1990’s. Back in those days, people that had their computer machines attached to a network through the pipeline called “the internet” were able to send and receive text messages from others that were also connected. Many of these users had connections for business purposes, but others were those early adapters that were linked to the “geek”-type culture that used the ‘net for various purposes ranging to playing games online, to exchanging ideals and notions related to popular culture. And the term for junk e-mail as “spam” was liked to that interest. (More on that in a moment!)
As more and more people started to subscribe to internet services from companies such as Earthlink, Compuserve, the ever present American On-Line, as well as a number of smaller local and regional service, one can get their own e-mail address where a subscriber can exchange text letters to anyone with an e-mail address.
Before long, these people would receive messages from e-mail address they didn’t know, or from those they were hijacked to legit e-mail addresses from an unknown source. These ads ranged from weight loss pills to penis enlargers. (It didn’t matter of the gender to the user as those early spammers didn’t know who or what sex was the end user!) If these spammers didn’t attempt to sell product, folks in counties such as Nigeria would send pleading letters claiming they were the solicitor (using British English) of some King/Prince/Duke/Other state of royalty that died/was killed/found missing that left a fortune of money and the receiver was chosen to be the lucky one to become part of this money grab!
Although people who did receive these messages tended to ignore them, many did fall for the trap as the serenity of the sender’s intentions were not necessarily known. After all, e-mail was new, and those trying to keep the cyberspace pace wasn’t aware of the evil intentions.
Then the spammers got creative. Many of these senders of spam claimed they were from Microsoft–the dominate operating system at the time, noting they were sending an upgrade to its many applications. (Windows ‘95, Word, etc.) All the receiver had to do was the open the attachment, install the software, and they were good to go. However, the only good was from the sender, creating either a link to grab secured information embedded on the hard drive, or to totally shut down the OS. Of course, they will claim that they can fix the problem for a fee. This was a method of kidnapping their computer, only to charge a ransom to get it all back–assuming they the victim would ever get their stuff returned!
But there were way for folks to become protected. Software such as Norton’s Utilities were created and packaged to fight spam and related malicious attachments so computers running their software would be protected. And its creator, Peter Norton, would be pictured on its software boxes, donning a lab coat making him look like a lab technician or a doctor (take your pick), sporting horned rimmed glasses and presenting a rather stern look, making him appear that he really means business!
Over time and tide, people began to become more hip and savvy upon how to react to spam e-mails. Perhaps the best and easiest way to fight back was to delete the message once received, as well as not to open attachments from sources not known to the receiver. And the spammers themselves discovered other ways to get what they want from others, from toting goods worth counterfeiting as sold through e-bay, dedicated web sites that resemble legit sources, or through other means. And as gaining access to the ‘net has moved from dedicated desk top computers to mobile devices, not all malware would work with every piece of equipment. Although the Windows OS isn’t what it once was in terms of global dominance, it still is the choice of malware creators to use this OS as its platform. (For many years, the best solution that a computer user was told to avoid malware completely was to “get a Mac”, as very few sources created evil software for a Macintosh operating system!)
However, in spite of all of these security measures that has been created, as well as how people send and receive e-mail messages, spam is still being sent. As long as there are ‘net connected devices (as well as a ‘net connection), spam, malware, and those related elements will still make their mark. But apply common sense, and using an Apple device still doesn’t hurt!
Oh yes! How is the name for junk e-mail as spam connected to popular culture? According to legend, the term was attributed to a c.1970 comedy skit created and performed by the British troupe known as Monty Python’s Fling Circus. The skit took place at a diner during the breakfast hour, where all of the entries on the menu featured Spam, the canned pork based meat product made by the Hormel Company. During the skit, the waitress read all the breakfast entries with “spam” as its offering, eventually offering more spam, spam, and spam–joined in by a chorus of Vikings seated at an adjacent table singing along with “spam, spam, spam”. Those that were early users of the internet and its related connections tended to enjoy this team’s type of humor, as well as other notions usually sci-fi related. An unknown person connected that skit to unwanted e-mail messages because he (assumed that the user was male) was getting them over and over, like “spam, spam, spam”! Since the term “spam” sounds rather hip and cool, the name eventually stuck! In addition, there were the names and terms coined that sprang from users of “bulletin boards” and “chat rooms”, mostly in the form of aberrations. But that tale is for another article. (ROFL)
NEWS AND REVIEWS
No reviews of anything this week, but keep your eyes on this space for more review notes on feature films, theater performances, and television programming to be published within the upcoming season! See you then!
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