Although spam has always been an annoyance to students, over the last two months the amount of junk e-mail being sent to mail.umich.edu inboxes across campus has dramatically increased.

Angela Cesere
(PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY BENJI DELL/Daily)

Online shopping around the holidays has led to the increase in spam, according to Amy Brooks, director of the University’s Computing Environment.

Students who provide their e-mail address to campus groups also risk making themselves easier targets for spammers.

Spammers often acquire the e-mail addresses of student groups from the University’s online directory and then send spam to all the group’s members. Because the group e-mail list remains online until the owner deletes it, spammers can continue sending junk e-mail even if the group is no longer used.

Information Technology Central Services is currently developing a program designed to repair the damage caused by outdated e-mail lists. ITCS’s Group Expiry Policy will require that group owners renew their e-mail lists every year. If no one responds to the notice after a year, ITCS will delete the list. The policy has already been approved by the ITCS governance board in charge of projects, Brooks said.

“It will probably be implemented over the summer,” she said.

ITCS has also proposed a project called the Penalty Box. The program would detect e-mail addresses that have sent large numbers of messages to university addresses over an extended period of time. Those individuals would be put in the Penalty Box, which would limit the amount of e-mail they can send each day.

“The idea of the program is that they will give up after retrying so many times and go somewhere else,” Brooks said.

Brooks said she expects the Penalty Box to go into effect at the end of the term.

Debra Steiner, manager of Consulting Services for ITCS, said her office has received 168 calls about spam mail since September, which is worrisome but not severe, she said.

Most students have already taken advantage of resources like the Do Not Spam list and spam filters, Steiner said. While some spammers have developed ways to prevent being filtered by the Do Not Spam list, the University is trying to stay a step ahead, Brooks said.

“Hopefully, the new programs in development will provide students with more protection,” she said.

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