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Spammers are watching you, law firm warns

Daniel Thomas
More than eight out of ten spam e-mails contain covert tracking codes that allow the senders to record and log recipients’ e-mail addresses as soon as the message is opened, new research has found.

Many of these unwanted messages would be illegal under regulations such as the Data Protection Act, said Shelagh Gaskill, partner at law firm Masons, which commissioned the research.

“Much of what [the spammers] are promoting is illegal anyway, so they are not going to take much notice of laws from the UK, EU or anywhere else,” she said.

“It is important that there are laws against pure spam – it must be deterred, but it is also vital to protect the rights of companies to market their products legitimately. The best way to deal with spam is not in court, it has to be found in technology.”

The research, conducted by network security firm iomart on behalf of Masons, found that 83% of messages sent over a two-week period to a specially created account were HTML e-mails with hidden tracking codes.

After a two-week period, the volume of spam received on these accounts virtually doubled.

Iain Richardson, software developer with iomart, said the majority of spam is evident from the subject header and should be deleted immediately. But, he warned, spammers are becoming more sophisticated so users should be on guard.

“Popular software, such as Microsoft Outlook or Express, lets the user read a section of the e-mail in the preview window before opening the e-mail,” Richardson said.

“Be warned that viewing a preview pane will activate the hidden tracker code, so do not use it if you want to minimise spam.”


 

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