19 Aug


All email addresses have the same format: name@domain.xyz

So, if any webpage contains any number of email addresses in this format, it is very easy for any scammer to write a “crawler” (similar to those used by search engines), and send it out to crawl every single webpage it can find.

It can then scan through these webpages, one character at a time, until it recognizes the “@” sign. Since this character is seldom part of any website text which is NOT an email address, it can be assumed that it is part of a valid email address. The program can then scan backwards until it finds the first space, knowing that the character following the space is the first character of the email address. Then it records this first character and successive ones, scans to the right again until it finds the first space, knowing that this is now the end of the email address (since a space cannot be part of an email address). After cutting off any possible full-stops at the end, what remains is now, in all likelihood, a valid email address.

The program simply stores this character string, together with all the others it has found. These email addresses could now be sold to spammers, who would pay well for valid email addresses, to be used in spam marketing campaigns.

So, this explains why you have been receiving so many random emails trying to sell you anything from Aardvarks to Ziplock bags, without you having any recollection of ever having visited such a website or asking for any info of this type.

So, if your email address is on any one or more webpages in the normal format, and you have access to the content of this website, have it changed to any one of the following formats:



name at domain dot xyz


… or any other variation which deviates from the correct format, containing an @ sign and some fullstops!

Of course this would be too late to remove your (correct) email address from the lists, but it will stop any future harvesting of your email address!


Prof Melius Weideman        19 August 2019


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