Chopped Pork and Ham

. . otherwise of course known as SPAM. I was wondering today how SPAM came to be coined as a term for junk e-mail. As I suspected, it seems to go back to a Monty Python sketch from the 1970’s – have a look at this article.

I guess that’s lost on the younger elements of our staff and student population but I remember singing the SPAM song. . .

What’s certainly not lost is junk e-mail. We all get the unwelcome e-mails in our inbox – many are offering a whole range of services and products, the nastier ones pretend to be a bank or other authority and are trying to persuade you to part with your PIN number and/or password. All this SPAM is at best a huge nuisance, and at worst a real security threat. What are we doing about this?

Fighting SPAM successfully is a constant battle. People who send SPAM are constantly changing their approach, and as one route gets shut down they find another. A bit like the malaria parasite – as soon as your body defences recognise it and attack it, it simply changes its coat. The trick is to prevent all the undesirable e-mail getting through, but making sure you don’t actually prevent legitimate email.

We use an external company for this – all our incoming mail goes through their service. There’s a good reason for that – an external company managing this for lots of organisations is better placed to spot bulk e-mail messages going to lots of organisations and block it.

It may interest you to know that in a typical month we receive 3.3 million e-mails into our University every month. 2.6 million of these are identified as SPAM and you never see them – that’s nearly 80% of all our e-mail. There are some that get through, but rest assured – they are a tiny fraction of the ones that are blocked.

Finally – just a reminder. If you receive any e-mail, from anyone, asking you for your PIN number, or password, or any other security details, NEVER reply. Just bin it. If it looks like it came from IT Services, it didn’t. If they offer a link to some web site where you can allegedly check or change your security details, DON’T CLICK.

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