University of Botswana History Department

Email addresses and junk email

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How to get the correct UB email address

On various pages in this site, we give staff members' email addresses. However, we recently discovered that this was causing a problem: it made us liable to junk email. Junk email (also sometimes "spam") is the unwanted advertisements sent out in bulk by certain unscrupulous businesses. These people use computers to "harvest" email addresses automatically from the Web - especially Usenet but also ordinary sites such as ours. The "harvesting" programs can recognize an email address (this is not very difficult, in fact) and copy it to a list. The list is used by a computer to send out vast numbers of unsolicited email advertisements, usually without any human being ever checking them.

To protect against this, it is increasingly necessary to give the email address in some form that the automatic collecting programs can't use. Sometimes you will see an address given as "someone@(NO SPAM)wherever.ac.uk" - the idea being that a human reader will know to cut out the "(NO SPAM)".

The late Tsutsi Molema protesting against junk email

In our case, we have simply cut off the end of addresses. Thus you will see the address "bennett@mopipi..." followed by a link to this page for explanation. The full address will be (name)@mopipi.ub.bw. I.e., for "mopipi", read "mopipi.ub.bw".

We apologize for the inconvenience, but the spammers make it necessary. Spam can be a serious nuisance, not only for unwanted advertising but also because the addresses can be used for the spreading of "malware". It is also a major problem if you are using a web-based email address such as yahoo. Many people use such addresses while travelling, as they can be accessed anywhere. But if your address gets into the hands of the spammers, the inbox will be filled with rubbish, and as this sort of email works rather slowly, this may make it difficult or impossible to get to the real email.

NB:

  1. If you receive junk email, it will often include a message telling you to reply, or click a link, etc., if you want your name removed. While this may sometimes be genuine, it is also sometimes used as a trick - if you reply, then the computer at the other end knows that the junk email did reach a human user who read it. This makes the address more valuable, and it may now be passed on or sold to other spammers! So don't do this!
  2. Don't confuse spam with legitimate list email. If you ask to be put on a mailing list, then it is perfectly legitimate. Such legitimate lists will include (genuine) information on how to be removed from the list. Be cautious about signing up for lists that you are not sure about - e.g. a commercial site asking if you want to be updated on advertising may be connected to spam. Many are genuine, but be cautious.
    The spammers often try to confuse the issue by writing, in their unsolicited messages, things like "This message is never sent unsolicited" and claiming that you must have signed up for it. They sometimes add insult to injury by also including some pseudo-legal bit about "This cannot be considered spam...".
  3. Be cautious if you use HTML email. This can include images. The way this works in HTML is that your computer sends a request for the image file -- in this case, the spammer receives this request and now knows that the email message was received and opened, making the address valuable. It is generally safer to read suspicious email in plain text.


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By Bruce Bennett, email bennett@mopipi...

Copyright © 2001 University of Botswana History Department. Images copyright © 2001 B. S. Bennett.
Last updated 10 January 2002