Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Holidays and spam

Last week I disconnected myself from the Internet, got in the car and headed north for a week's holiday in the English countryside. (We stayed at Wheeldon Trees Farm, near Buxton, which is in the Peak District National Park.)

Apart from the fine weather (we were lucky), the beautiful countryside, the excellent country pubs, and the interesting sites to visit, the holiday had another added bonus. There was no mobile reception for our network at least where we were staying. This meant I couldn't even check my email to see how the world was faring without me.

The world survived. When I returned to London I found my email mailboxes jammed with over 1,600 messages in just 7 days - and this number excludes most of the mailing lists I subscribe to. That looked like far more emails than I usually receive, and I was worried that I might have chosen a particularly busy week to go away.

On closer examination, I found that my spam filters had filtered out around 1,400 messages into easily deletable folders, leaving about 200 legitimate messages to look at. These messages included newsletters, circulars, and adverts - and some spam emails that had slipped through the filters - so the actual number of emails that were for me personally was just a couple of dozen. So despite first impressions, we had picked a quiet week for our holiday after all.

I know all the reasons for spam, and I know how to ignore the scams and phishing attempts. My email addresses are out there in the wild, and I can't stop them. On an individual level, I know my ISP and mail software have pretty good filters that save me plenty of time. What worries me is the danger that the sheer volume of electronic junk may one day overload the Internet completely.

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