Security Corner

Aug 11 2008   3:42PM GMT

The Best Way to Avoid Spam

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

In the 1986 hit movie, The Karate Kid – Part II, the kid’s instructor, Mr. Miyagi, uttered this famous line: “Best way to avoid punch, no be there!” Good advice, indeed; it’s one of those universal pieces of truth that’s so obvious, it’s overlooked. The beauty of it is that it can be applied to anything. In this case, I’ll apply it to spam email, the electronic equivalent of a punch: “Best way to avoid spam, no have email address!”

That’s not exactly practical; we all have an email address. Some of us have several of them (at last count, I have at least nine addresses and I’m sure I’ve missed a couple somewhere). In my final installment of the “How to Secure Your Computer” series, “If Spam has You Irate, Obfuscate!” I gave examples of how you can make your email address unreadable by web bots. Well, that can be a bit of work, forcing you to cut and paste, and make other efforts that can quickly become tedious. There’s an easier way.

Enter Mailinator, the completely anonymous email address that you create on-the-fly when you need to enter an email address but don’t want to use your real one. From their site:

How do I create an account at Mailinator? It’s simple, you just send email to it. Temporary accounts are created when email arrives for them. First, you give out the mailinator email address you created, and then you check it. It’s that simple.

Do I have to sign up? No sign-up, you don’t even have to tell Mailinator you’re coming.

It’s a valid, working email address that you can check just by visiting the site. Of course, anyone can check it just by entering the address in the “Check your inbox” box. Not the best of situations, so they fixed it by providing alternate inbox names . In a nutshell, you use the alternate inbox name for your email address when you post it publicly. Anyone who enters the alternate inbox name will simply get a “no messages” message. Pretty slick.

The beauty of Mailinator is that it provides a valid email address; you can download stuff from and subscribe to those sites that require clicking links in confirmation emails without having to worry about exposing yourself to spam. Use the alternate inbox name or even a different email address every time you need one.

Best way to avoid spam, no have email address — or at least use one you can throw away at will. Either way, you avoid the punch and the security risk.

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