Why Spam is a Small Business Nightmare

Why Spam is a Small Business Nightmare

15 years after the world united to crack down on spam emails, we’re still struggling with overloaded Inboxes and estimates of the extent of global spam, range from 60% to over 80% of email traffic. All that unwanted email continues to flood the internet, much of it targeted towards small businesses, and the impact goes wider than you might think.

Here’s the full breakdown of how modern spam works and how it’s hurting your business.

What is spam?

Generally speaking, spam is any unwanted message that lands in your email, comes via text, social media messaging, or other communication platform. It might be sent to your main business account, eg your ‘contact us’ email, or direct to your employees. Most of the time, spam is annoying but relatively innocent messages from another business inviting you to buy/do/see something. They’re newsletters, reminders, invitations, sales pitches, etc. You may know the sender and have a previous relationship with them, or they might be a complete stranger.

Occasionally, spam may even be part of a cyber attack.

Why you’re getting spammed.

Maybe you or your employee signed up for a newsletter or bought a raffle ticket to win a car. Perhaps you got onto the mailing list accidentally after enquiring about a product, not knowing that simply getting a brochure sent through would trigger a spam-avalanche. Often there’s fine print that says they’ll not only use your details to send you their marketing, but they’ll share your details with 3rd parties so they can send you messages too. That single email address can be passed around the internet like wildfire, and before you know it, you’re buried under spam.

Sometimes, and more than we’d like to think, your details are found illicitly, perhaps through a hacked website for example, like the recent LinkedIn leak. More often though, your email is simply collected by a computer ‘scraping’ the internet – scouring forums and websites for plain text or linked emails and selling them as prime spam targets. It’s easy to see how individual office employees receive an average of 120 emails daily, over half of which are spam!

Spam is not just annoying.

We all know spam is annoying, but did you know it’s also resource hungry? Your employees are spending hours each week sorting their email, assessing each one for relevance and deleting the spam. Too often, legitimate emails from clients and customers get caught up and are accidentally deleted. Add in the temptation to read the more interesting spam emails and productivity drops to zero.

On the other side of the business, your email server might be dedicating storage and processing power to spam emails, occasionally to the point where inboxes get full and real mail is bouncing out. While most spam is simply an unwanted newsletter or sale notice, there’s also the risk that any links may be a cyber-attack in disguise. After all, one click is all it takes to open the door to viruses, ransomware, phishing or other security emergencies.

How to reduce the spam.

Normally, spam is filtered out locally by your antivirus security software (depending on your choice of software of course) and all email servers have the capacity to use in-built filtering software before you get it – one of the most common software packages being called ‘SpamAssassin’. On top of that, there are third-party anti-spam companies which you can use to add further filtering, where typically the third party gets all your emails first and processes their filtering on them, before it even gets to your server.

Also the 2003 Can Spam Act is a global set of anti-spam laws that was set up that requires all marketers to follow certain rules, like not adding people to mailing lists without their permission, and always including an ‘unsubscribe’ link. This why many companies send you an email to confirm that you want to be added to their mailing lists, even when you have asked for it in the first place.

So firstly, make sure you’re not accidentally giving people permission to email you – check the fine print or privacy policy. Next, look for the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. Unfortunately, not all of them include the link, or they hide it somewhere impossible to see.

The worst spammers use that ‘unsubscribe’ click to confirm that your email address is valid/active and then sell it on, so don’t automatically go for the ‘unsubscribe’ link – look at the email first and decide before clicking.

If you need help with your anti-spam protection, call us on 01455 209505.