Computer Crime Research Center


E-mail spam requires business owners' vigilence

Date: September 19, 2008

When it comes to keeping their computer network running smoothly and free from viruses, many small businesses face an uphill battle.

This is because of the sheer volume of viruses coming through every day, computer experts say.

And those viruses are coming through primarily in the form of junk e-mail or, what is better known as spam.

Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages. The most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam.

"It's is the biggest issue we're seeing," said Jeff McCulloch, president of Yeo &Yeo Computer Consulting LLC in Saginaw. "It's outrageous - about 90 percent of all e-mail is spam."

Most companies cannot afford to just have software on their computers to protect against virus attacks and other disruptions to their computer network, McCulloch said.

More often, he is recommending business owners to have all their computer activity monitored by an outside company.

"We're moving more toward managed services as a whole," he said. "That's all they do is keep an eye on your network all the time."

When employees open an e-mail that is corrupt at the workplace, it can wreak havoc on the company's network, he said.

Increasingly, spam is sent through "zombie" networks, or networks of virus- or worm-infected personal computers in homes and offices around the world. Many modern worms install a backdoor, which allows the spammer access to the computer.

In addition to opening an infected e-mail, most employees get on the Internet and visit sites that are not work related, which can also cause problems, McCulloch said.

"Every person has done it at one point - gone to eBay or," he said.

Often people will go to sites that are respectable, but click on an advertisement or some other pop-up that can start to slow the entire network or worse, infect it with a virus.

Training employees on what not to do on the computer would help many businesses avoid computer problems, said Robert Dusenbury, owner of 1 Call Away LLC in Saginaw.

Seemingly harmless things such as chain e-mails are things that can really clog up your e-mail server, he said.

"It starts to slow the system down and then people think they need another computer," he said.

Teaching employees to create passwords that are easy to remember but hard to crack would help a lot, he added.

Most people make up a password using their spouse's name or the date of their anniversary. Computer experts can crack those in less than 10 seconds, he said.

"It's like giving them a blank key in a door and it will open the door right up," he said. "There are literally hundreds of new viruses coming out every day."

If a business cannot afford to have a company monitor its computer activity on a daily basis, even spot checks can be helpful, Dusenbury said.

"I can monitor a day's worth of activity, print out a report and those can be a big help," he said.

Sites where there is a great deal of user interaction, such as iTunes or Facebook are especially risky, he said.
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