Does it matter if you are an aardvark or a zebra?

In spam terms, apparently it does. According to Cambridge University security expert Richard Clayton, if your email address is aardvark at animal.

In spam terms, apparently it does. According to Cambridge University security expert Richard Clayton, if your email address is aardvark at animal.net, you are more likely to receive spam than if your address is zebra at animal.net.

"It makes quite a big difference," Clayton told me. "If you look at real zebras, they get less spam than real aardvarks."

For those of you surprised that real aardvarks and zebras have email accounts at all, perhaps it would be good to say that Clayton was speaking figuratively.

If 'aardvark' represents an email address beginning with 'a', and 'zebra' represents an email address beginning with "z", and if we are talking about 'real' email addresses that receive non-spam email, the aardvarks will get 35 percent spam, whereas the zebras will get 20 percent, said Clayton.

Clayton explained further in a blog post on Monday. There is a prevalence of dictionary-style spam attacks, where spam is automatically sent to a list of viable names. It follows that if you have an unusual name, you'll get less spam.

"The bottom line is that you should have an obscure name," Clayton told me.

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