Educating Employees to Avoid Spam

For many companies spam is a serious issue, one that can affect the productivity of their employees. A recent study showed that the average computer user can spend 20 to 40 minutes every day, just wading through spam. For a small business the time spent could be like having a full-time employee on staff just to deal with spam or junk email, which constitutes more than half of the global traffic of e-mail, according to the latest report of the global computer security company Symantec.

If there is a lack of spam control it is also much more likely that destructive viruses, Trojans, worms, hijacks and phishing will be able to enter the system. If a company network is attacked by any of these, it can cause extensive damage in loss of productivity as well as expense for repairs. One important point to understand is that spam cannot be 100% eliminated, no matter what hardware or software you install. It is important for companies to set clear policies regarding the handling of email within the company, to prevent abuse and help protect the network.

Many employees are not savvy enough to recognize all spam and just one click is all it takes to shut down e-mail servers or corrupt important data, wrecking havoc on an entire company network. Any employee that has internet access should be made aware of the potential hazards of spam, how to recognize it and what steps to take. While extreme vigilance is far from the perfect solution, it seems to be a necessary precaution for any company with internet access and that means educating employees in the proper and safe use of email and the internet in general.

Educate users about what they need to do if they do receive spam. Develop a policy on the personal use of company computers for sending or receiving emails or accessing personal email accounts and determine what will be considered “acceptable use”. Educate employees about “phishing” to help prevent identity theft scams.

Spammers can also harvest email addresses entered on web sites. A reputable site will adhere to a privacy policy and you will be able to opt not to receive any email promotions. Some sites don’t use such ethical practices and it is often difficult to tell which are reputable sites and which are not. Educate employees to avoid entering their company email address on sites and to use a disposable email address such as Hotmail or Gmail that can be discarded if it becomes overwhelmed with spam.

An email address becomes more valuable to a spammer if it is proven to be active, and that the spam arriving at the inbox is actually being read, or at least opened. Inform employees to never click to unsubscribe link, or any link for that matter, in spam emails they receive. This only serves to identify an active email account to the spammer and will likely create an escalation in spam.

Of course these measures will never completely eradicate spam, which is most likely an impossible task since spammers continue to create new and ingenious ways to harvest addresses and invade email. But armed with knowledge and vigilance there is much an employee can do to at least keep spam at bay.