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Where Did Internet Spam Come From?

b2ap3_thumbnail_spammy400Spam in your email inbox is extremely annoying. Email spam is always an eyesore, and swallows up valuable time wasted on sifting through your inbox. Have you ever wondered how email spam got its name? You may be surprised to find the answer. Here’s a hint: it has something to do with Vikings, a diner, canned meat, and a British comedy.

According to Dictionary.com, “spam” is a noun meaning “disruptive messages, especially commercial messages posted on a computer network or sent as email”. About 70% of all email messages sent throughout the world today can be classified as spam email. These are unwanted emails carrying advertisements for things that you would probably never buy, and malware targeted to steal your personal information. Spam is so widespread because of how easy it has become for spammers to send massive amounts of email without any restriction or regulation.

Have you ever wondered how we adopted the term “spam” to represent this junk email? It in fact comes to us from a sketch in the classic comedy show, Monty Python.

As seen in the skit, a man and woman find themselves floating into a diner for breakfast. The woman is completely displeased with the menu, as almost every item includes the canned meat favorite, Spam. As the woman argues that she doesn’t want a dish with Spam in it, the waitress answers back with the fact that her diner doesn’t serve dishes without Spam. Meanwhile, in the background, a clan of Vikings start singing praise to the canned meat that has seemingly kept them alive on their voyages. As the skit continues, the overwhelming abundance of Spam was met with an extreme disinterest to eat it. As email spam started surfacing in the mid-1990s, recipients reflected on this scenario to coin the term in correspondence to the unwanted abundance. No, we’re not making this up.

On a serious note, email spam is not to be taken lightly. As we mentioned before, it can be malicious to an unguarded recipient. It’s been reported that United States companies lose, on average, $712 per employee each year despite software spam filters that come with most email clients. Many hackers prefer the use of spam to get their work done. They’ll code their malware to automatically trigger an email to go out to the infected person’s contacts. Typically, these emails carry links disguised as free offers or good deals that attempt to trick recipients into clicking and downloading the malware, giving the hacker access to personal information. The malicious software is then sent to all of that person’s contacts, thus spreading the infection like wildfire.

Small to medium-sized businesses can rarely afford to battle downtime due to malware attacks. As a business manager, you need your machines to be running optimally at all times, and spam certainly poses a threat to that need. While your email client is most likely equipped with a spam filter, it may not be enough to keep you perfectly safe from spam attacks. For information about TMS’s spam protection solution, give us a call at 1 (626) 737-2960. We will walk you through the basics of how to protect yourself and your employees from the annoyance and potential danger of spam, so you can spend more time watching Monty Python (on your breaks, of course).