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Informal To send an unsolicited e-mail message in an indiscriminate way (or, as a noun, the actual mail message). Formerly a low- level problem, tens of billions of spam e-mails are currently (2008) sent daily. The purpose of such e-mails varies, with advertising and fraud being common. E- mail addresses are gathered from web sites and other Internet sources, as well as from users' lists of contacts by malware that infects their machines. These address lists are used by software that can send out huge quantities of spam automatically; only a minute proportion need generate a financial return to make the operation profitable. Software that identifies spam and separates it from genuine e-mail messages is now an essential part of all e- mail clients. (The word “spam” derives from a Monty Python sketch concerned with excessive offerings of cooked spam.)

Subjects: Computing.

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