Insights and Opinions

 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Don't Worry, Your Email is No More Dangerous Today

from James Siminoff





In case you have not seen it yet Epsilon, one of the largest ESP (Email Service Providers), had their database of millions of emails hacked on March 30th. Some of their clients are big banks like Chase and tech companies like Tivo. Many people including myself had their email address and name compromised in this attack.

So the press is telling everyone effected that they should be very concerned about getting more phishing scams and spam. Here are 5 reasons why you should not be any more scared of your email box then you were on March 29th:

1. You Already were Compromised- Most of your email addresses are already in the hands of spammers and people that sell lists to marketers. You can check this by looking to see if you have any email in your spam folder, if you do then you are already “compromised”. This addition of knowing a name and possibly a company you associate with is a bit more of a security risk but many spam lists already have name, so pre and post this hack you should never feel that name meant security for email.

2. Spam is a Numbers Business- Spam only works at huge scale and it is hard to get delivered into the inbox. It is hard enough for legitimate email senders like BestBuy and Groupon to get in your inbox. ReturnPath is a $50 million+ company whose main purpose is helping legitimate senders get into your box. So while spammers might have access to your email address, depending on your spam filter it is going to be really hard to get delivery into your inbox, just like it has always been.

3. There is no “Subscribe Law”- Many people have the misconception that the CANSPAM act of 2003 meant that someone had to subscribe to get email. That is not true, a sender can get your email through a number of ways legally and send you as much email as they want as long as they allow you to Unsubscribe from it. So again, while your email address is now “hacked” most times it is already in a list for sale (that includes your name) so this “hack” does not expose you any more then you were before.

4. Phishing is Rampant- Phishing attacks have been rampant in the internet for years now. You have to use the proper tools and have the right amount of awareness as to what you are doing in your email and in any other interaction like phone. There are many ways to stay safe, even websites dedicated to it.

5. Unsubscribing- Sorry for the self promotion but if it makes you feel any better the reason we started Unsubscribe.com was for exactly this reason. There are many things that Unsubscribing to a email expose you to. The main one is clicking on a link that loads malware or a virus to your computer. The “Unsubscribe” link on a phishing email can have some bad consequences as well. Never give any more information when you unsubscribe then your email address. It is illegal to require a login for a Unsubscribe or ask for any other info then your email address for this very reason. Unsubscribe.com creates a protective layer for you from Phishing and malware so that even if the email is “bad” by sending it to us you are protected. So while I again do not want to sound like a used car salesman, you should be using Unsubscribe.com as it makes it easy and safe to keep your inbox clean.

The moral of the story is regardless of these individual hacks, use technology (Spam filters and Unsubscribe.com) and street smarts in all of your communications with companies whether on the phone or in email because there are always going to be people out to try and scam you.

James Siminoff is the the CEO and Co-Founder of Unsubscribe.com the former CSO of Ditech Networks Nasdaq (DITC) the founder and former CEO of PhoneTag, founder/principal in NobelBiz and founder of GRID.com. This was originally posted on James' blog, and was reprinted with permission.


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