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Protect your e-mail Address


If you have a website and need to post your email address online , here's how to keep spammers from finding it.
(some excerpts by Brian Livingston (PC Magazine) and Colin Chapman, President, SpamFixer)

Audette Internet Solutions offers honest help with your web page problems. We encourage you to email us with a question so we may demonstrate our genuinely, helpful philosophy.  You don't have to do it alone.

   Like most e-mail users, you probably get a ton of unsolicited messages, and you may be getting more and more every month. Filtering software can help you sort out obvious spam, but it still takes time to examine all the e-mails a spam filter puts into the in-between category of "it may be spam, it may not be."  This is spam that could contain a virus, be a phishing attempt or it could merely be offering pharmaceuticals or investment opportunities. Wouldn't you rather avoid some of that spam in the first place?

In a series of experiments, the center for democracy and technology, a nonprofit group based in Washington DC, created dozens of new e-mail addresses and then used them in various ways to see which addresses would receive the most spam.

After months of public exposure, the e-mail addresses that received almost all -- -- a whopping 97% -- -- of the thousands of pieces of spam that came in were those posted on web pages. Addresses that had been used only to register at e-commerce sites, for example, received little or no spam.

Professional spammers, constantly scan the Web using high-speed programs known as harvesters to capture visible e-mail addresses. Harvesting addresses with a robot spider in this way is illegal in the US under the CAN-SPAM Act, but that hasn't stopped the practice.

Using a spider, a high speed connection and a reasonably powerful computer, over ten thousand email addresses can be harvested in a single hour.

To understand how fast an email address database can be built, consider the following numbers that are typical of spider speeds:

64 websites can be visited at the same time time.
It takes an average of 20 seconds to spider a website.

Based on those numbers, if they only get one email address from each website visited, you would be looking at a spammer adding 11,520 email addresses to their list per hour.
Let the spider run for a day and we are talking about more than 275,000 email addresses.

This is one reason why everyone in a company will frequently get the same piece of spam at the same time -- a spammer has crawled your company website and gotten the addresses of everyone that is listed on the site.

Does this mean you can never put your e-mail address on a web page? Not at all. If you use the right methods, you can let people know how to get in touch with you -- -- and still keep spammers from harvesting your address.

One of the easiest ways is to spell out the "@" sign and the period, like this:
support at eightdollarwebhosting dot com
. In the center's study, addresses that had been obscured in this simple way on web pages did not receive a single piece of spam!

Unfortunately, though the spammers' current harvesting software isn't smart enough to replace the spelled-out symbols, this won't be true for long, as the programs are continually improving. To insure that harvesters can't read your address now or in the future, stronger steps are needed.

To make your address truly invisible to harvesters, but visible to human visitors, display it only as a graphic. Open Microsoft's Paint, Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop or a similar graphics application and select text mode. Type your address, switch to the select tool, and select the area where your address appears, saving it as a GIF file. Post the graphic on your web page, and you're done.

Although optical character recognition (OCR) programs can read letters and numbers in image files, it's unlikely that a harvesting program will ever use OCR. Setting harvesting programs to scan every single image on the World Wide Web would severely slow them down and, in the end, wouldn't be cost-effective.

If you have an e-mail link on your site, it's very important that the HTML code behind it doesn't contain your e-mail address in plain text. Harvesting programs actually read code, not the characters visible in a browser.

To protect your clickable links from being harvested, you should encrypt the portion of your code that includes your e-mail address using JavaScript.

Using JavaScript encryption on the e-mail address on your webpage,
  becomes
%61%61%75%64%65%74%74%65%40%61%75%64%65%74%74%65%69%6E%74%65%72%6E%65%74%2E%63%6F%6D.

This will make your e-mail address, not only unreadable to the human eye, but also unreadable to harvesting programs, which can't take the time to decode all of the JavaScript on web pages. Web browsers, however, have no trouble when it comes to interpreting the code and will show the encrypted code as .

A website that will instantly encrypt your email address (or any HTML code) for free is: http://webdeveloper.earthweb.com/repository/javascripts/2004/03/398171/index.html

Keep in mind, however, that some 10% of web users usually have disabled JavaScript in their browsers, and, therefore will not be able to see your link, so it is important to display your address both as a graphic and as a clickable JavaScript link.

Using these techniques the spamming harvesters will visit your website and move on when they can't see any usable email addresses.  So to your insure your computer's health....use stealth.

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