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E-Mail Harvesting Protection

© March 2008 Anthony Lawrence

We're all so worried about our e-mail addresses, aren't we? Look at my Contact Page: I use a jpeg image of my email address. Other people do things like "It's steve AT xyz DOT com" to "protect" themselves from email harvesters.

Let's inject a little reality here: Bots already can read the silly "typing tricks" people use, and image recognition is reality now: unless you obfuscate the image so that people have trouble reading it too, OCR can easily pick out an email. A scanner that wanted to do such work only has to look for "Contact" pages and could subvert any hiding attempt easily.

Does all this matter anyway? Probably not. Here's why: the most common method of harvesting email today is from viruses that take over computers and pick up email addresses from that person's mail. That's the primary source of addresses for spammers. Why scan thousands of web pages to pick up a few lousy addresses when you can get hundreds or even thousands of addresses from one computer? I'm not saying it's not done, but if you are already getting spam (and who isn't?) , your address is already out there, and it probably came from a compromised computer.

However, old habits die hard. I know it's silly and nearly pointless, but I still use an image on my contact page and probably will keep doing so. It even makes less sense for me because I've been on the Net since 1991 and in the "olden days" most of us thought nothing of posting our email in newsgroup posts - my email is stamped all over thousands and thousands of posts already.. and of course I'm also in the mailboxes of many thousands of people from 17 years of email correspondence - what are the chances that all of those people protect themselves with firewalls and anti-virus programs?

And of course I already get spam - hundreds of messages every day. My email address is "in the wild", probably bought and sold along with hundreds of thousands of others. Would it make any significant difference if I put it out in plain text here? Probably not..

Got something to add? Send me email.

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-> Mail harvesting bots want your email


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Mon Mar 3 17:20:20 2008: 3770   NickCernis

Great topic. I agree that obfuscating email addresses makes little difference. I stopped trying to hide mine in January this year. I got fed up of keeping up with the latest techniques for harvesting and hiding it. Plus, others who've referred me had already posted it in plain text long ago on sites I had no access to, so it was already out in the wild.

So far, the spam that Gmail catches remains about the same!

Mon Mar 3 17:29:44 2008: 3771   TonyLawrence

Yeah, I'm not surprised. Love your blog focus :-)

Tue Mar 4 16:13:48 2008: 3779   BigDumbDinosaur

Spam has gotten to be like death and taxes: totally unavoidable. It reminds me of this little rant: (link) . Just when my server seems to be saying to me I'm winning the war against the spam-meisters, along comes another barrage. I'd love to be able to round up all these a**holes and shoot 'em right in the area where Viagra has its greatest effect. <Grin>


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