Data Doctors: Treat Russian spam like any other - don't bite - East Valley Tribune: Business

Data Doctors: Treat Russian spam like any other - don't bite

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Posted: Saturday, September 13, 2008 5:27 pm | Updated: 11:56 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Q. I'm receiving one or two e-mails per day that are written in Russian. My immediate action is to delete them. I have tried to filter them by rejecting e-mails in a foreign language; that has had no effect. Needless to say, these e-mails scare me. In English, e-mails can do all sorts of things. In Russian it's like having a ghost bad guy with a gun to your head that you can't even see. Suggestions? - Bill

A. Most of us have been seeing the same increase of "Cyrillic" spam in our inboxes, so don't feel you're being singled out. If all us English speaking Internet users are getting these messages, the logical question becomes: "what kind of a bonehead spammer sends messages to millions of people who don't have a clue what the messages say?"

This would be logical if you assumed that someone is taking the time to separate e-mail addresses based on the country of origin. But that doesn't happen in the world of spam.

Since the spammer is not paying for the sending of each message through a legitimate commercial entity (they usually get sent via compromised computers or networks of computers referred to as "botnets"), they don't care who gets what as long as they go to real e-mail addresses. As with English-based spam, don't click on any links or open any attachments associated with the Russian messages and continue to delete them as they come in.

Earlier this year in an article published on PCWorld.com, Russia was identified by several anti-malware organizations as being one of the top producing malware countries in the world. This means that malicious users in Russia are infecting large numbers of computers around the Internet and pulling them into silent networks of infected machines that then send out Russian spam and malware without the owner of the computer realizing it.

The fear of the unknown that you have is a good thing and will serve you well in avoiding any attempts to exploit your computer in foreign languages. On the Internet, the proverb "curiosity killed the cat" is as true as it will ever be in the real world, so keep ignoring and deleting.

One of the things that you may want to try is create a filter or rule (depending on which e-mail system or program you use) that looks for a specific type of character in the message that is specific to the Cyrillic alphabet. For instance, the backwards "n", which is a very common character in these types of messages and would never be used in an English e-mail message, could be used as the basis of the rule or filter. In most programs, you can click and drag the character from one of the junk messages into Word and then into your filter or rule setup screen. Be sure to include both the "Subject" and "body" options in your rule or filter so it will look for the character throughout the entire message. You can experiment with various characters or sets of characters and create multiple rules or filters based on individual characters until the majority of the messages get filtered out.

For those who have never created a filter or rule for their e-mail, consult the Help menu in the program (search for "filter" or "rule"), as each program's steps and options are different.

Ken Colburn is host of the "Computer Corner" radio show, which can be heardat www.datadoctors.com/radio.Readers may send questionsto evtrib@datadoctors.com

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