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How can I protect my web pages from email address harvesting?

If you are responsible for a web space, be aware that email addresses published on your pages are vulnerable to being added to unsolicited email (spam) lists. Spammers collect email addresses by running automated harvesting scripts that parse static web pages one by one, looking for strings of characters that appear to be email addresses. Such programs can collect thousands of addresses in a very short time.

To test the security of your own address, visit a search engine such as Google and enter your email address. The number of results you see represents the minimum number that are visible to harvesting scripts.

For Indiana University web pages, if the contact information is for IU business, consider obtaining a departmental account and listing that address rather than your personal address; see About requesting accounts for groups or departments

If you use Webserve, you can also protect email addresses by creating a link to a web form which allows messages to be submitted using a server script; for instructions, see Forms Using Transform.

Many other methods exist for protecting email addresses; most of these, however, change rapidly as spammers continuously develop new strategies. For additional options, try using a search engine to look for the term email obfuscation. You might also wish to consult Wikipedia's article explaining other Anti-harvesting methods.

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Last modified on August 24, 2012.

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