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Email Spam

April 29, 2016

Email spammers use disorienting techniques to get you to click on their links.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Shutting down spam. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

How vulnerable are you to email spam? (Wirawat Lian-udom/Flickr)

Just about everyone has received an urgent email from a friend stranded in a foreign country, a notice about a mysterious package, or a link to hot celebrity gossip. Most people don’t fall for the bait, so why do online scammers keep sending them? According to computer security expert Stefan Savage of UC San Diego, spam emails are successful because they’re disorienting.

STAFAN SAVAGE (University of California, San Diego):

The sense of urgency engendered in those messages is precisely to make you not think, well, should I be expecting anything from Fedex right now, why are they sending this to me, all of the kinds of questions that say I probably shouldn’t be clicking on this link.

HIRSHON:

He says to make sure your email address isn’t used to spam your friends, use a different password for every website you use, and sign up for two-step authentication if your email provider offers it. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.