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Spam by the letter

Monday, April 04, 2011

Did you know the first letter of your email address might determine how much spam you get? According to a new study conducted by British computer scientist Dr. Richard Clayton, email addresses starting with an “a,” “m” or “s” received about 40 percent more spam than addresses that start with another letter. Those beginning with a “q,” “z” or “y” received about 20 percent less spam, on average.

This University of Cambridge study analyzed roughly 550 million junk mail messages between February 1 and March 27 this year. Dr. Clayton says these so-called “dictionary” attacks attempt to find a live address by cycling through common English names, such as Steve, Mary or Adam, followed by trying different domains tied to the same first name (primarily for Web mail accounts provided by Yahoo! and Gmail, for example). 

So, if you are looking to reduce the amount of spam in your inbox, the good news is that you don’t necessarily need to change your email address.  Instead, there are numerous programs that can help. One that's free is SPAMfighter for Microsoft Outlook. It filters out suspicious-looking emails, but it does add an advertising signature to the end of your outgoing emails that is meant to spread the word about the software. (And no, you can’t remove it.)

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