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Email Harvesting

March 19, 2014 - By 

Email harvesting is the process by which lists of email addresses are acquired, usually without the consent of the users. The owners of the email addresses are then spammed with unsolicited business offers, ads, or invitations to use online adult services and materials. In some cases, cybercriminals might use the addresses for phishing.

Methods of Email Harvesting

There are several methods through which email harvesting can be done and as the internet evolves, new ones are devised. The most common and effective method involves the use of harvest bots, which are scripts that crawl the web to scavenge for email addresses.

The most common places from which these addresses are obtained are online forums, business staff directories, and lists from professional societies.

Other methods of harvesting email addresses include the directory harvest attack, where harvesters use the dictionary method to guess possible user names at a given domain. For example, mike@domain-name.com will almost always exist. Sometimes, spammers can simply sell or swap email lists with each other if they operate in the same field. They can also get an address with a user’s consent by offering you a trial service once you subscribe with a valid email address.