Now, you wouldn't think that a virus would be something that a Web developer would be particularly worried about - other than protecting the computer you work on. But the reality is that the virus writers are getting smarter, and it's getting harder to hide from them.
The SirCam virus actually searches cached Web pages for email addresses. And since it has a mail server inside of it, it just uses those email addresses just like the most annoying email spammers. Only what it's sending is a virus, and not just an annoying ad.
How You Can Protect Yourself
- Add "anti-spam" messages to your email address
These are messages that a person would be able to strip out, but a spambot or virus wouldn't recognize.
- Take your email address off of your Web pages
Instead, use a feedback form where the email address is embedded in the CGI, not the HTML. The CGI will not be cached, and so you'll still get the comments, but hopefully fewer viruses and spam.
- Convert your email address to an image
Images are not cached in a way that spammer programs and viruses can grab the email address. Just make sure that your alt text doesn't include your email address.
Anti-Spam Messages in the Email Address
Anti-spam messages are probably the easiest way to help prevent spam and viruses from being spread. Simply add words that a person would recognize should be removed to your email address in the mailto field. For example:
The drawback to this method is that people don't often pay attention to email addresses when they are clicking on a mailto link. And, chances are, if they get a bounce back message, they won't notice why, they'll just delete the mail. I can speak from personal experience. I often write to one of my friends and forget to remove the _DELETE_ME_ from his email address.
Remove the Email Address
Removing your email address completely is probably the most effective method. You simply create a Web form, and use a CGI to send the mail. There are lots of form to email CGIs available on my Free CGIs listing page. Remember, you need to find one that stores the email address in the CGI itself. If it's in the HTML, a spambot or virus can get the email address.
One drawback to forms is that people don't like to use them. They feel more impersonal and so many customers who might otherwise have told you about that broken link will think twice before filling out a form.
Convert Email Addresses to Images
If you're good with graphics, you can do this yourself. But if you're not, the Email Guide has a review of a product that will do it for you.
MailMask for Windows
A free Windows tool to convert your email address on Web sites to an image to hide it from spammers.
The drawback to writing your email as an image is that you can't use it in a mailto tag. Also, your customers have to write the email address themselves, and that will cause typographical errors.
Anti-Spam Script Maker
A free Windows tool to convert your email addresses to something spammers won't recognize.
One Final Note
If you don't yet have antivirus software, I strongly recommend you get one. There are lots of tools to choose from. I use Norton Antivirus. And if you do have antivirus software, update your virus definitions often. This will both protect your computer and your data, as well as keep you from annoying your friends with the SirCam, Magistr, and other worms that mail themselves to everyone in your mailbox (including me <grin>).