Email viruses, worms and Trojans are capable of harming your business computer system and with it your ability to conduct your business.
Email is one of the easiest and fastest means of business communication. As with any form of communication that is cheap and easy it is open to abuse. Spam-the electronic equivalent of 'junk mail'-now makes up the majority of email traffic. Spam includes electronic mail as well as mobile phone messaging such as SMS and MMS.
Because businesses often advertise their email addresses they are likely to receive greater volumes of spam than home users. This not only has an impact on productivity, but spam can also carry viruses, worms and Trojans through malicious code in attachments and commands embedded in seemingly normal messages.
If you use email to conduct your business you need to know how to reduce the spam you receive and to securely manage what does reach your inbox. You also need to be aware of your legal obligations to ensure any electronic messages you send to consumers do not breach Spam Act or the Australian E-marketing code of practice.
- Talk to your ISP about spam filtering. All your emails come through them, so they may have solutions they can tailor to you and your business.
- Use spam filters to reduce the amount of spam that your business receives. Know how to manage the spam that gets through and ensure your staff know how to recognise scam and hoax emails and to avoid clicking on links or opening attachments from suspicious emails.
- Install security software that includes a firewall, antivirus and anti-spyware. Ensure that it is updated automatically. Read more on securing your computer.
- If you advertise online through your own website provide a simple web form that allows customers to contact you without needing an email address. Alternatively you can publish your email address as an image rather than as text.
- Do not to open email attachments or click on hyperlinks in emails from unknown or questionable sources. It is not enough that the email originated from an address you recognise.
- Don't ever reply to spam. This is likely to compound the problem by confirming your email address to the spammers.
- Report spam to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) at www.spam.acma.gov.au or phone 1300 855 180. Spam SMS can be reported to 0429 999 888
On this page
- Protect your email address
- Install spam filters
- Install security software
- Dealing with the spam you receive
- Reporting spam
- Spam legislation
Fact sheets and resources
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) website provides information and downloadable guides on reducing spam, as well as advice on compliance with the Act.
Protect your email address
As a business advertising your email address can potentially attract new customers. However, revealing your email address online can result in it being harvested and used by spammers. Robots are used to trawl through the web collecting visible email addresses on websites for later use by spammers.
If you advertise online through your own website you can provide a simple web form that allows customers to contact you without needing an email address or you can publish your email address as an image rather than as text so that it cannot be read by the robots that scan websites looking for email addresses.
If you advertise through an online business directory check before you sign up that they have an online form to allow customers to contact you without needing your actual email address.
If you request that the customer provides an email address in the online form so that you can contact them you must ensure you comply with privacy and consumer legislation to protect their email address and personal information.
Install spam filters
Software is available to help reduce the inflow of spam. It detects unsolicited and unwanted emails and prevents them from reaching your inbox by searching for suspicious word patterns or other clues that may indicate spam. The filtering software then diverts these messages to (in some cases) a special mail box or location so that you can check through them later and delete those that are spam.
Speak with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) about the spam filtering they offer.
Install security software
Installing security software (anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall) protects against most email viruses, worms and Trojans.
To protect against harmful emails you should also:
- perform a complete virus scan on your computer at least once a week
- keep all filtering and security software up-to-date t protect against the latest threats
- install security patches for all operating system software and application software and keep them up-to-date.
Read more about security software and securing your computers.
Dealing with the spam you receive
It is not possible to completely stop spam from entering your email inbox, so it is important to ensure you and your staff know how to recognise spam emails and know what to do and what not to do:
- apply common sense before opening any email, especially if the title of the email attachment appears vague or unfamiliar
- always delete spam without opening it
- add the address to 'junk senders'-most mail programs have the ability to block senders, or add them to a 'junk senders' list
- don't ever reply to spam even to unsubscribe from a mailing list. This will only confirm that your address is real and you will probably receive more spam as a result.
- do not to open email attachments or click on hyperlinks in emails from unknown or questionable sources. It is not enough that the email originated from an address you recognise. If you must open an attachment before you can verify the source, be sure your virus definitions are up-to-date. Save the file to your hard disk and scan the file using your anti-virus software before opening it.
Report spam to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) or install the SpamMATTERS reporting tool available from the ACMA website.
Australia's anti-spam legislation was introduced in 2003 in response to concerns about the impact of spam on the effectiveness of electronic communication and the costs imposed on end-users.
The Spam Act prohibits the sending of spam, which is identified as a commercial electronic message sent without the consent of the addressee via email, short message service (SMS), multimedia message service (MMS) or instant messaging. The requirements under the Spam Act apply to all commercial electronic messages, including both bulk and individual messages.
The Act is available on the ComLaw website
Consumer and business guides
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is the government agency responsible for enforcing Australia's Spam Act. The ACMA provides online information and downloadable guides on the many things you can do to reduce the amount of spam you receive, as well as advice on compliance with the Act: www.acma.gov.au.