Handling spam and abuse

Dealing with abusive emails and inappropriate Internet use

Key points:

  • Make sure you know your company policy on abusive email and inappropriate Internet use.
  • Report all inappropriate use of the internet or emails – not reporting could make you seem guilty
  • If this is a spam email, reply as instructed to request removal from the list
  • Notify the ISP or company concerned using the abuse@ email address.
  • Be careful what software you download as it may give access to your systems
  • Read the small print in licence agreements on downloaded software

Inappropriate email

Sex sells and, as businesses looked for uses of the Internet, they saw the business model of the telephone sex sector. Free speech has also been one of the underpinning ideas of the academic community from which the Internet grew.

Unfortunately, this means that there are probably unwanted, offensive or pornographic emails that arrive but you would rather not see. This page gives some ideas about how to deal with them.

Firstly, if the email you received offends you, resist the urge to delete it immediately. “Ignore them, they will go away” might work in the play ground but not in this case.

If the material is that offensive, you have seen a crime and you are obliged to report it. Employers are taking mis-use of email and Internet facilities seriously. Not reporting these events can be seen as misconduct on your part.

Example: In July 2002 HP suspended a large number workers for email abuse. All the senders were fired, and contractors escorted off-side immediately.

Later reports indicated that everyone who received the offensive email, but *didn’t report* it was suspended, even if they just deleted it without opening it. This was HP email misuse policy at the time.

If the email is a spam it should tell you how to get off the mailing list. Follow these instructions. The emails should stop within a few days.

If the emails continue or an apparently target email campaign starts. Report this immediately to the host company or Internet service provider (ISP).

Continuing to report these unwanted emails does work and the volume does eventually reduce. If you don’t report the problem, you will receive more and be risking your career.

More information:
http://www.mail-abuse.com/
http://www.abuse.net/
http://www.euro.cauce.org/en/index.html

Beware of Internet download software

Download and store MP3 collections and other Internet and multimedia software, on company equipment and networks, not only hog bandwidth but also expose your network to security breaches and your company to copyright infringement liability. Your company may address the problem in its Internet usage policy.

Some MP3 collections contain bootleg (illegal) copies of copyright material. Breaking copyright law can be very expensive for companies and ruin the careers to those staff involved. Be very careful that any media files (like MP3) are properly licensed to you.

Some of the multimedia, audio and other software available for download includes licence conditions that allow the software writers access to your machine. Click on the “I Agree” button on the licence page at the start of the installation and you may have given them (and anyone who can pose as them) the key to your network and computer. Take special care when reading the licence.

Additional software and media files on a network will not have been calculated for when the network was designed. This means that the extras people are running will affect the performance of the network. For example, bandwidth and speed of response may be reduced for normal users by applications sharing MP3 files.

These issues have lead to some companies insisting that no downloaded software can be used on their machines. While this does restrict some of the facilities of the Internet, it can also protect that company.

Contributed by:
Carol A. Long
CEng, MBCS, MIEEE
Secretary BCSWomen