Email Spambots: What Are They and How to Prevent Them?

Have you ever wanted to simply check your email in peace, but found yourself deleting unnecessary emails from random accounts instead? If your answer was yes, chances are that you were another victim of an email spam bot. 

While spambots exploit various websites and their users using a lot of different channels, such as social media, email is one of the most affected channels. Users across the globe are spammed with unwanted advertisements, misleading and irrelevant information. 

In this article, you will learn about what an email spambot is and how to protect your account and website from it.

What is a Spam Bot? 

Generally speaking, bots are computer programs that execute repetitive tasks, usually operating over the internet. A spambot is a specific type of bot that sends spam messages. It could also post spam in the different places where users interact online, like social media platforms or forums. 

Spam is any sort of unwelcome or inappropriate message that a large number of users receive. It includes unwanted product advertisements, scams, and malware downloads, as well as irrelevant backlinks. In other words, it is content that is uncalled for and delivered in large quantities. 

A lot of online spam is automated by spambots. Internet users like you do not even interact with real people when you come across spam, even if the bot seems to respond to your interaction. The bots are built to spread pre-programmed messages or follow scripts to interact with internet users. 

What is an Email Spambot?

An email spambot is a program that is written to collect email addresses from all over the internet. As soon as you share your email address on any website, it catches the attention of the spambots. These senders of email spam need to find as many working email addresses as they possibly can. 

What Does an Email Spam Bot Do?

The email bots scan web pages, looking for text that follows the email address format [text + @ symbol + domain]. The text is then copied into the spammer’s database of targets. 

Once the spammers have their database of email addresses, they are then free to send out spam emails. These emails are often criminal in nature. 

It is important to note that spammers don’t always use bots alone to collect email addresses. Sometimes, they can obtain email lists from other places by purchasing them from the Dark Web or stealing the legitimately obtained data from a company’s database. At other times, users are tricked into giving out their email addresses as well.

How are Spambots Used to Send Spam Emails? 

Below, we have listed some of the ways that your email inbox is targeted by spam:

  • Fake Malware Warnings: You can sometimes receive emails stating that your device has malware that may result in your system crashing. These emails pretend to indicate that they have a solution ready to prevent this from happening. You may be asked to fill in a form or download some software, and you could also be asked to share a few personal details, such as credit card information. In the process of installing this fake software, a piece of malware is installed on your system instead. 
  • Spoofing: Spambots are also prone to using a technique known as spoofing so that their emails seem as though they come from legitimate sources. 
  • Ads: If you check your email right now, you’ll definitely find at least two to three emails pretending to advertise diet pills or detoxing teas. These advertisements are another form of spam that can cause a virus to download. 
  • Phishing: Through phishing, users like you are contacted by email or even text messages by bots posing as legitimate institutions. They lure you into providing sensitive data, like banking or credit card details, passwords or personal information. As a result, your data could become compromised or exposed. 

3 Ways to Protect Your Email Address and Website from Spam Bots:

Bots start to build their email database when they crawl through your webpages and ingest junk data. This data includes signup forms that you may have filled, subscription forms, and data from various comment sections that you’ve participated in. 

Here are the 3 ways to protect your email and website from spambots: 

Double Opt-In 

The double opt-in method is the process by which you receive confirmation emails verifying that the email you have entered is valid and reachable at any point. You can use this method almost everywhere, from sign-up forms to the comment section of your favorite websites, and even subscription forms. 

How does double opt-in work? 

Let’s assume that you’re signing up for a marketing list. 

  • You fill in the input fields, including your email address, username, and password. 
  • You click to sign up and submit the form. 
  • An email is sent to your submitted email address. 

The email received consists of a confirmation link that you must click as proof that you have willingly opted-in for all promotions and other marketing-related updates and promotions. 

This method ensures that the email address you submitted is valid. It also ensures that you have granted permission to receive promotional emails in the future. 

reCAPTCHAS

reCAPTCHAs offers you the possibility of protecting your email address from spam. If a check has revealed that the user is human, encrypted email addresses are only displayed in plain text. 

These checks come in different forms. You may be asked to:

  • type out a letter and number combination 
  • do an easy calculation
  • do a combination task or puzzle 

Google provides a free reCAPTCHA service.

reCAPTCHAs offer you a high level of protection against spam, because email addresses are either not displayed at all, or they are only in the encrypted form in the source code. Therefore, they can be easily integrated into a website’s design. However, the additional effort needed to find an email address does have a negative impact on a website’s user-friendliness. This is because it hinders users like you from being able to easily access contact information.

Integrate Your Email Address as a Graphic

If your email address is implemented as a graphic, the human can still read it. However, texts that are written as graphics are hard for email harvesters to recognize. There may be the odd spambot that is able to convert image elements into text elements using Optical Character Recognition or OCR, but this isn’t very common. 

Therefore, by including corresponding contact information as a graphic, you are better able to protect your email against spam. As a website operator, however, you must keep in mind that doing so can limit the user-friendliness of your website. 

The following HTML code shows you how your email address can be integrated into a website as a graphic file:

<img src=”Path/graphicfile.png” with=”120″ height=”20″ alt= If you have any questions or suggestions, please write an email to: user@domain.com”>

This graphic will then be displayed:

user@domain.com

Simple Tips to Get Rid of Email Spam:

  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists
  • Don’t give your email address to random people
  • Hide your email address from public platforms, like your social media 
  • Use an alternative email address that receives only spam email 
  • Invest in a good quality antivirus software 

Conclusion 

Email spam bots are a huge pain in the neck. They act as a form of one-way communication that helps attackers and other malicious internet users get through to your data through phishing pages. 

Always remember to:

  • Check the source of an email before you click on 
  • Constantly update the spam filters on your email account 
  • Create an alternative email address that acts as a secondary email address for the spam emails you receive
  • Share your details with trustworthy people

While dealing with spam can be frustrating, remember that by following some of the steps mentioned in this article, you can protect your data from being harmed in any way! 

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