Viagra is No 1 on AOL's top 10 spam list 2003

MUMBAI: Dubious education offers, pharmaceuticals, body enhancing hormones, and shady finance-related offers ranked as the most widely recognised junk email subject lines of 2003 by America Online (AOL) spam watchers.

The AOL Postmaster team in northern Virginia has calculated the top 10 most widely sent spam email subject lines - or 'headers' - on the AOL service in 2003. The team reviewed data forwarded by AOL members during the year, much of it collected in the aggregate via use of the popular 'Report Spam' button in AOL.

The aim of this review is to protect the service from spammers on behalf of its members.

AOL's Postmaster team manager Charles Stiles said, "We want to encourage AOL members and all online users to take this important data and use it to improve their online email experience. We have decided to take this top 10 list of most often-used subject lines in spam emails and are placing them in AOL's 'Custom Word List'."

The number one spam email subject line for last year was Viagra online. Other words used included xanax, valium, xenical, phentermine, soma, celebrex, valtrex. Get out of debt, get bigger and improve your sex life, online degree were among the other most prominent lines.

Stiles also offered expert tips for online consumers who are interested in improving their email experience by building a Custom Word List of terms that show up most often in the subject lines of junk emails. "First of all, when setting up any kind of anti-spam list, be as precise as possible and use your creativity to out-guess and out-smart spammers at their own game. That means setting up spam mail controls to block multiple variations of a particular word that you often see in spam subject lines."

"Second, look at the messages you report as spam, and make a list of the words used most often in those messages' subject lines. Then add those words to your Custom Word List within Spam Controls. You can start by using AOL's own new Top 10 list for 2003. Third, when it comes to spam in your email inbox - report it. AOL can block spam better when our members report spam more often. Clicking on the 'Report Spam' button also trains our members' adaptive spam filters and helps their AOL software learn what members' individual, personal email preferences are."

Stiles also outlined what made spam-fighting in 2003 unique at the grassroots level for the AOL Postmaster team: "There are many ways in which spammers were using techniques of fraud and falsification to attempt to get their junk email past AOL's anti-spam filters. We continue to see lots of interesting patterns used by spammers, such as: 'randomised characters' in the email subject line; the use of word variations, including 'whitespace' insertions within words, to elude spam screens; misspellings of common spam terms; numeric substitutions for certain letters within common junk email words - such as a number '3' for an 'E' and a number '1' for an 'I', and a number '0' for a 'o'; and even the use of characters from the Cyrillic alphabet in email subject lines."

AOL also announced it had blocked a total of almost 500 billion - or a half-trillion spam emails from getting to the inboxes of its members during the course of last year. Using its advanced, finely-tuned spam-blocking filters, AOL estimates that by blocking this number of spam emails, it has detected and deleted prevented an average of 15,000 spam emails from getting into the inboxes of each AOL member. This amounts to an average of 40 less spam emails daily per AOL account.

The company also claimed to have reached a new high when it blocked 2.4 billion spam emails in a single day using its spam filters. During 2003, AOL members also set a record for the amount of spam emails they reported to the company in a single day at 20.4 million. AOL reaffirmed that it routinely blocks 75-80 per cent of all Internet inbound email as spam, preventing it from reaching members' email inboxes.

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