What is email spam? Where is the word ‘spam’ derived from?

Meet John, a young professional currently working from home due to coronavirus pandemic. John has a habit of checking his email whenever he wakes up (well, at least after spending some time in his social media accounts). But he gets upset because before he can read important emails, he has to skip a lot of unnecessary, unwanted, and annoying messages. His inbox got a lot of spam emails every single day!

So what are these spam emails? How did spammers get into John’s email? How can he avoid junk messages?

The term ‘spam’ originated from 1970 Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit, a television comedy series of BBC. In the story, all of the restaurant’s available menu items devolve into Spam, a Hormel canned luncheon meat. When the waitress recites the word ‘spam,’ a group of Vikings keeps on singing “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam! Annoyingly, they are told to shut up.

According to Cisco, a top information technology, networking, and cybersecurity solutions worldwide, spam emails are unsolicited and unwanted junk emails sent out to random recipients. They are used for commercial and business purposes to promote certain products or services. Since the cost per email is cheap, these junk emails are sent in bulk quantities regularly.

In 2018, spam emails made up 85 percent of all daily emails, mostly coming from the United States, Brazil, and China. Ninety-eight percent of them are intended for advertising about products and services, and two percent were for phishing emails and stole information posing cybersecurity threats to users.

Furthermore, Cisco Talos intelligence reported that 320 billion spam emails are sent every day, with 94 percent malware attached. This accounts for over half of global email traffic spam as of April 2020.

Spam emails spread rapidly more than COVID-19. According to Google, its Gmail service blocks more than 100 million phishing emails daily, with 18 million of them related to COVID-19. Besides, Mozilla’s Private Relay is currently testing a new add-on to stop unwanted emails for its 250 million Firefox users by just one click.

Microsoft has also advised its users to keep their email address in private because spammers and cybercriminals have their ways of getting email addresses. If emails are publicly posted, spammers can crawl the web for the “@” sign. They can also make reasonable guesses to generate common user names, match them with common domains, and get all the emails from the contact list of an infected user. Some can purchase the lists of email addresses, both legal and illegal.

Spamming is a business. Spammers make a substantial amount of money despite a low success rate and tedious work involved. According to Chris Kasich and his team from UC San Diego, spammers can earn 7,000 US Dollars daily or up to 2 million US Dollars in a year.

So how can John stop spam emails from repeatedly sending him messages?

Unfortunately, there is no way John can get rid of spam emails and spammers. But there are ways that users can make to reduce the number of junk emails from entering their inboxes.

With tight cybersecurity measures, most email clients already have spam filters that automatically move suspicious emails to a separate junk folder. Reporting, deleting, and blocking spam emails will prevent malicious and fraud emails from repeatedly making it into inboxes. Also, do not click any links or open attached files because sometimes they will trigger malware and lead you to webpages and downloads.

For most people, email is necessary for communication, especially for students, professionals, and businesses where attaching essential documents and presentations are needed. In times when digital work is the only safe and viable means to do businesses and online classes, we all need a secure, malicious-free, fraudulent-free, and spam-free emails. Stupid, pointless, annoying malware (SPAM) is naturally good in bothering us, and we have no choice but to delete and sometimes avoid them. But if there’s a spam that will make all our mornings beautiful, that’s Spam that can be cooked perfectly paired with bread, egg, and coffee. I know John loves this kind of Spam too!

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