Spam by the letter

Did you know the first letter of your email address might determine how much spam you get?
According to a new study conducted by UK computer scientist Dr. Richard Clayton, addresses starting with an “A,” “M” or “S” received about 40 percent more spam than email 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, 2008.
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, such as adamr@hotmail.com, adamr@yahoo.com or adamr@gmail.com.
Looking to reduce the amount of spam in your in-box? 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. (No, you can’t remove it.)
By Marc SaltzmanPhoto: Toby Talbot, AP


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