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You Hate Spam, So Why Are You Sending It?

If you're like the rest of us, you hate spam, but if you're not careful, you're probably sending a lot of it to your friends. At least one third of all spam is being sent from home computers without their owners' knowledge. Your address book can be cracked and your computer power harnessed by one the many computer viruses going around.

Mark Ward writes in bbcnews.com that hackers create viruses that search out computers with insufficient firewalls and virus detectors and add them to a huge pool of PCs that send out reams of spam every day. Spammers want to use your computer by remote control because of the new anti-spam laws that make it impossible to send out spam any other way.

"You cannot effectively spam without a network of proxies," says Joe Stewart of Lurhq. "You are being blocked everywhere you go." To cover their tracks, spammers only use a small number of the computers they control at any one time.

First, a virus infects your machine and sends copies of itself to everyone in your address book, hoping to spread the infection. Then, on a date that's coded into the virus, your computer reports to a secret internet site to await future orders. Once a machine is invaded, other hackers can "see" this and will send you lots of new spam as well.

But the battle isn't over: Pete Barlas writes that four of the largest e-mail providers, Microsoft, Yahoo, EarthLink and AOL, have banded together and filed lawsuits against the six biggest senders of spam.

The companies being sued break the law by sending e-mail with fake "from" addresses. They're hard to catch because they frequently change their e-mail addresses, and about half the spam in the U.S. comes from Asia or Europe, although one of the biggest spammers is in Canada.

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