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Spam is the electronic equivalent of junk mail. Spam can be dangerous though and a good spam filter is an important component to your computer security. Quite often it contains links to Web sites. Be careful of clicking on these because you may accidentally a tiny subprogram (called a "cookie") that provides relays information from your machine to an outside party, or opens a backdoor to your computer.
Today, the word "spam" has mutated from a form of canned meat to a form of abusing the internet. There is both the noun, "My mailbox is full of spam", and the verb: "The hackers were spamming the company database with useless data". Although the word was part of the computer expert's nomenclature years before, it entered popular usage in 1994 after a couple of Phoenix lawyers sent an unsolicited advertisement to USENET, which is a massive collection of message boards on every topic imaginable. The word "spam" was used to identify this unwanted traffic. The name stuck. Today an entire industry exists to create spam filters, spam blockers and email spam filters.
Many people in the internet security community are dedicated spam-fighters. "Thee BlueList" is a list of well-known anti-spam activists, used by spammers to target these people for harassment. The full name is "Thee BlueList of Internet Complainers" and is maintained by someone known only as Thee BlueLister, whose trademark is spelling "the" as "thee." The current incarnation is known as the Brown List.
Spam is the subject of a number of state laws that form a different kind of “spam filter”. In September 2003, legislation was approved in California that made it the second state (after Delaware) to adopt an opt-in rule for e-mail advertising. Under this legislation, it is illegal to send unsolicited commercial e-mail from California or to a California e-mail address. The law applies to senders as well as to advertisers on whose behalf messages are sent. It also includes less restrictive rules from which the broad prohibition may be severed in the event that it is struck down as unconstitutional.
The Achilles heel of the spammers is their message. They can circumvent any other barrier a spam blocker sets up. But they have to deliver their message, whatever it is. If we can write email spam filters that recognizes their messages, there is no way they can get around that. Think about how you delete spam from your mailbox. You look at the content for words and phrases or other things that don't look right to you. That's because your brain has its own "content-based filter". Content-based filtering systems used in connection with a sound statistical model are still one of the most effective ways to keep spam out of your mailbox.