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SPAM, as in spiced pork and ham, is the registered trademark of Hormel Foods Corp. But any Internet regular will tell you that this product name has given way to another, far more onerous definition — unsolicited bulk e-mail. In Verizon Online Services Inc. v. Ralsky (2002), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia noted that the term “spam” was given to unsolicited bulk e-mail after a sketch by the British comedy troupe Monty Python, where a group of Vikings chant “SPAM” in a cafe where the only breakfast item on the menu is Hormel’s famous loaf. But any business owner will tell you that there’s nothing funny about spam. Spam is more than just annoying. When multiple spam messages are sent to multiple e-mail addresses within one e-mail network, the whole system gets gummed up. Slowed e-mail service affects employee and business efficiency. A business reeling from a barrage of e-mail doesn’t have to sit back and take it. Businesses can arm themselves by becoming familiar with what spam is and isn’t, who sends spam, and what legal remedies and technical resources are available to fight spam. In fact, businesses should stand up and take action, because many Internet service providers (ISPs) have been unable to stem the tide on their own. As the popularity of spam began to rise, ISPs began trying to counter spam by installing filters to block all e-mail messages that came from a certain domain name. Unfortunately, savvy spammers got around filters by resorting to “forged spamming” and “domain-name hijacking.” Forged spamming is transmitting spam using false, non-existent domain names. Hijacking occurs when large amounts of spam are relayed through an unsuspecting server, thus making the spam appear to originate from an approved, unfiltered server. Forged spam can cause even bigger problems than ordinary spam. As employees come and go, e-mail addresses do, too. When a business’ server gets a message to an outdated e-mail address, it kindly attempts to inform the e-mail sender that it no longer exists. (Although spammers don’t care.) If the sender is a forged domain name, the server nevertheless keeps trying to get its message across, which can slow the whole system to a crawl. Delays of up to 12 hours and an inability to page key employees is not unusual. Luckily, there are myriad Web sites where IT professionals can find programs to help combat spam.

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