It’s happened to us all… suddenly you begin receiving way more spam in your Email Inbox than normal. There are numerous sources that can cause spam, but in this post, I’ll focus on Email Spam Bots and guarding and protecting your website against them. While there is no way to stop spam completely, you can use several different methods and tools to make sure that your website does not fall prey to Email spam bots.
In case you are wondering about what an Email spam bot is exactly, here’s a quick definition:
An Email spam bot is a script or application designed to harvest e-mail addresses from material found on the Internet in order to build mailing lists for sending unsolicited e-mail.
So, below are several ways to protect and fight against these evil villans of the web.
The Simplest Method – Plain Text
Because Email addresses use such a standard convention, a la – firstname.lastname@example.org – it’s relatively easy for an Email spam bot to crawl your publicly accessible website and find email addresses. One method many folks have adopted of late is to replace the “@” sign in your email address with the word [at] in brackets. Also, replacing the “.” sign in your email with [dot] in brackets. Compare them below:
Bad – email@example.com
Good – yourname [at] youremail [dot] com
Because an Email spam bot looks for such a specific naming convention, it’s unlikely that it would pick up on the Good listed above.
Obfuscation or Munging
Obfuscation is the concealment of intended meaning in communication, making communication confusing, intentionally ambiguous, and more difficult to interpret. There are many tools that are freely available on the internet that will take your email address and obfuscate the information so that Email spam bots can’t read or recognize it as an email address. As strange as it may seem, I’ve used this one for many years: Finger Lakes BMW Club Obfuscater. This is a site that appears to be a Club for BMW owners, but they are providing a nice service here. Obfuscation is the method that I utilize 100% of the time.
Here’s a visual on what your email addresses look like when Obfuscated using this tool:
Website visitor sees:
Email spam bot sees:
As you can imagine, even the most complex and powerful scripts and computers can’t unravel the mystery behind this much gibberish.
Cryptx WordPress Plugin
If your website runs on WordPress, (there’s roughly a 20% chance of this, give or take), there is a new plugin called Cryptx that will quickly offer you the options mentioned above as well as a couple of additional ones such as using an image as a clickable link to your email address. I first heard about this in an article over at wpbeginner.com. I haven’t tried Cryptx out yet but I do plan to test it in development later this week. Based on what I’m seeing, this may become a standard for all of my development going forward because it looks like it will be relatively easy and low maintenance for my clients. Once I’ve tested this plugin out in development, I’ll share more about it here on my blog.
So that wraps up this post. If you are experiencing a high volume of Email spam, you should take some time to review your website and follow one of the methods listed above to protect yourself again Email spam bots. If you are too busy, not technically adept enough, or recently “orphaned” by your webmaster, please feel free to get in touch with me. I’m happy to talk with you about helping you make sure your website is protected against Email spam bots and other vulnerabilities.