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Unsolicited Commercial Email / Unsolicited Bulk Email / Spam FAQ

Please see our Important Notice, we recommend that you read it before you proceed.

What is UCE / spam?
Where does UCE come from?
Is UCE legal?
Where is Equestrian Websites' Mail AUP?
How did "spammers" get my email address?
How can I report offensive messages?
Why doesn't Equestrian Websites filter my email messages for UCE?
What can I do to avoid spam?
How can I deal with UCE I'm already receiving?

What is UCE / spam?

Unsolicited Commercial Email is advertising material sent and received by email without the recipient either requesting such information or otherwise explicitly expressing an interest in the material advertised.

Just like receiving junk mail through your letterbox, UCE / spam consists of junk mail that arrives on your computer. But unlike postal mail, the recipient has to bear most of the costs of spam, whether or not it's automatically deleted without being seen. Unsolicited Commercial Email and Unsolicited Bulk Email (UCE/UBE), usually in the form of marketing campaigns, get rich schemes and pornography, are popularly referred to as "spam".

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Where does UCE come from?

Some 'spam' is sent by companies that are new to the Internet and do not understand how unwelcome this material is. However recent reports suggest that 90% of all the material currently being sent originates from as few as 180 individuals or 'spam gangs'. These groups make a business out of promoting unsavoury (and sometimes illegal) material. They hide the true origin of the material by relaying their email via insecure mail systems and machines. Although in the past they have targeted incorrectly configured machines at ISPs and large companies, they now regularly exploit end-user ("customer") machines.

Equestrian Websites is committed to ensuring that our customer's machines cannot be exploited in this manner.

Due to the global scale of the UCE problem, governments are looking to tackle the problem with the introduction of legislation. These however will only influence each individual country, the UK currently generates a very small percentage of UCE and any such legislation would have a minor impact on the overall volumes received within the UK.

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Is UCE legal?

In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority has recently introduced some guidelines, making sure advertisers have prior consent, that advertisements should be clearly marked and contain suitable content etc. Sadly, most UCE does not originate from the UK and therefore will rarely adhere to the ASA guidelines. The European Union has recently voted to ban unsolicited email. It is proposed that advertisers will have to have recipients' consent before sending email. The details of this 'opt in' scheme are in the process of being finalized and adopted by all member countries.

In the US, some states have laws against the sending of unsolicited email. New anti-spam legislation is currently being drafted for other parts of the US. However due to the nature of the Internet it is likely that the perpetrators will simply move their servers. Many of the "spammers" will hide their activities by sending emails via unsecured machines they find elsewhere on the Internet. Regardless of legislation, virtually all ISPs have an Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP), which should prohibit the sending of unsolicited email. It therefore makes sense to report a "spammer's" activities to their ISP in the first instance.

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Where is Equestrian Websites' Mail AUP?

Equestrian Websites has had an AUP in place for a number of years. This is defined in our Terms & Conditions.

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How did "spammers" get my email address?

Email addresses are often harvested from newsgroups, chat rooms, mailing lists and other sources where your email address is made public. Making your address visible on a web page, either in the text or through a mail to: link is considered the most likely way for "spammers" to obtain your email address.

This "harvesting" is often done via an automatic computer program or script. Once on a "spammer's" list, your email address is often sold to other "spammers". We recommend that customers should never respond to, or view, websites advertised in UCE.

Some "spammers" take a "scattergun" approach - sending mail in bulk to a large number of variant email addresses, making a note of the addresses that yield a response.

Legitimate senders of email (where you have asked to be sent information in the past) will offer you the option of discontinuing the correspondence. However, unscrupulous senders of unsolicited email will use your "unsubscribe" request as evidence that your email address is "live" and that you read the messages that arrive. They will then send more material or sell on your address to other "spammers", so that the net effect is an increase in junk.

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How can I report offensive messages?

Equestrian Websites deal with any unsolicited bulk email that is being sent by (or relayed by) our customers. However, they are unable to do anything about "spam" sent from other ISPs. The first step is to work out where the UCE has originated from and then send a copy to the originating ISP. You will need to send a copy of ALL of the headers because they will need this information to track down the exact customer who is responsible.

Various means are used to disguise its true origins, such as sending it through Open Mail Relays and Open Proxy Servers. The UCE almost certainly has not come from the address listed in the From header of your mail client. In order to work out the originating ISP you will need to review the headers of the email. We have provided some links to tutorials on this topic below.

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Why doesn't Equestrian Websites filter my email messages for UCE?

To a certain extent we already do this. All incoming mail is checked against multiple publicly available spammer lists. All mail originating from a source shown on any of these lists is rejected at our mail servers. We also maintain our own list of specific senders/ networks that are also rejected. We estimate that about 75% of spam email is rejected by our system.

Filtering email, to discard the unwanted junk, often sounds like an attractive option and indeed some people find that systems installed on their own machines and tweaked for their own situation can work very well. However, beyond what we already have in place, there are very significant challenges in setting up a centralised system for a customer base as diverse as Equestrian Websites' and providing assurances that no-one's legitimate email will be discarded by mistake.

We are also mindful that filtering is essentially a stop-gap solution and that the "spammers" are already modifying their material to make it harder and harder to distinguish from legitimate email. To fight back, filters become more and more "fuzzy" and this increases the risk of blocking the email that our customers want to receive.

Equestrian Websites has investigated other email blocking solutions and at present we do not believe that we could offer a general system that would be suitable for customers. However, this is not a final judgement, and we will continue to monitor what is available as systems are improved and updated.

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What can I do to avoid UCE?

You can reduce the UCE/UBE sent to your "real" address by being careful who you reveal it to.

You should think carefully before making your email address public in any forum and especially when providing it to websites you visit unless they are operated by reputable companies, where there will usually be tick boxes where you can express your preferences about the future receipt of marketing material from them.

We have developed a system whereby email addresses shown on our web pages are written in such a way that they are not easily machine readable. This stops automatic "spam bots" reading email addresses from our web pages but still allows them to function normally. This system has been in place for all new web pages published since April 2005.

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How can I deal with UCE that I am already receiving?

Most email clients can be configured only to accept email to specified addresses, thereby rejecting (and causing to be removed from the server) addresses to which you do not wish to receive email. This will cause email sent to unwanted addresses to be deleted before downloading. Please note that some clients will need to download the email envelope and / or headers to filter mails. Details of how to do this are available here for Outlook Express.

Care should however be taken to ensure that email to misspelled addresses is not lost (eg john@ spelled as jon@ or allison@ spelled as alison@).

When it comes to email that is correctly addressed then you may wish to consider one of the email filtering programs that are available. There are many such packages, and impartial advice and details of some of these products are available in the Spam Filtering section at: http://spamlinks.net/

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Other useful information

For further information on this topic, you may wish to refer to some of the websites listed below.

Tutorials on Reading Email Headers
http://www.stopspam.org/email/headers/headers.html
http://www.doofus.org/spam/lessons/

Sites providing various network tools which can help identify the originating ISP
http://www.samspade.org/
http://www.geektools.com/

Abuse Contact Database which provides the contact address for a large number of domains
http://www.abuse.net/lookup.phtml

Information on Virus Hoaxes and Chain Mails
http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/
http://www.vmyths.com/

A document regarding the running of Mailing Lists
http://www.linx.net/noncore/bcp/mailinglist-bcp.html

Virus information (from the major vendors)
http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/ <We use this one
http://www.sophos.com/virusinfo/
http://www.viruslist.com/eng/
http://vil.nai.com/vil/

Spam Links
http://spamlinks.net/
http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rnc1/AllAboutSpam.pdf

Blocking Messenger Spam
http://www.re-quest.net/computers/messenger-spam/

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IMPORTANT NOTICE
The URLs referred to above are hosted by third parties. Equestrian Websites shall not be responsible or liable for the content, materials or software provided by any third parties, including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Equestrian Websites is unable to provide any support services in relation to any software downloaded from or referred to in the URLs referred to above.

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Last modified: Monday April 02, 2012.