Anti-Spam Email Filters

Category: Spam

It seems I fight a never ending battle with email spam. I am diligent to mark unwanted email as spam, and I'm very careful about giving out my email address. I think it's time to create some filters to catch the junk that still gets through. Can you give me some tips on getting started with spam filters?

Using Spam Filters to Protect Your Inbox

By some estimates, over 90 per cent of all email traffic is spam. Anti-spam email filters do their best to keep spam from reaching your inbox, but no spam filter is perfect. You may need to tweak your filters to catch particularly clever spam, or to allow some legitimate email to reach you.

Anti-spam email filters may be client or server based. A server-based spam filter runs on the email server, filtering spam before it is sent out to individual users. One benefit of a server spam filter is that a single spam filter screens email for multiple users, sparing them the overhead of running a spam filter on their desktops. Centralized management by IT pros is another advantage; they can make sure the spam filter is always up to date and configured properly. But server-side spam filters have a downside, too.
Anti-Spam Email Filters

Email system administrators may be bombarded by user complaints of "false positives," or messages blocked as spam when they should have been blocked. To reduce false positives, a server-side spam filter's sensitivity can be reduced; but that allows more spam to get through to users.

Large enterprises will want to use a comprehensive commercial product such as Barracuda Networks Spam & Virus Firewall, which scans with inbound and outbound messages for spam, viruses, phishing attempts, and confidential or sensitive information. Server administrators who manage email for websites and small companies may opt for Spam Assassin, a free open-source solution.

Spam Filters for End Users

Client-side spam filters are under users' control. Each user can manage the sensitivity of his or her own spam filter, and even create custom filters to meet specific needs. Client-side spam filters can be run without conflicts with server-side spam filters.

Most desktop email programs such as Outlook, Windows Live Hotmail and Thunderbird have spam filters built into them. Suspected spam is filed in a folder labeled "Spam" or "Junk Mail." The user can review messages in the junk folder and add false positives to a "white list" of email addresses that will never be blocked. Likewise, spam that makes it to the inbox can be marked as spam so that future messages from that email address go to the junk folder.

User-configurable spam filters are provided by Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail. If you read your mail through one of these web-based services, you will find a Spam or Junk folder. You can tag individual messages as spam or "not spam" just as you can with desktop email programs. Also, you can create your own filters to allow or disallow messages based on the sender's email address; the sender's domain name; or combinations of words in the subject line or body of a message. You'll find these options by clicking on "Create a filter" in Google Mail, or under "Options" in Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail.

If your email service provider does not do an adequate job of filtering out spam, you may want to use a third-party anti-spam filter. Here are two that do a good job:

MailWasher Pro is a client-side filter that connects to your email server and displays the messages that await you. You can then decide what to do with each message - download it, delete it, or forward it to another email address. Then, only "good" email will be downloaded to your desktop.

SpamFighter Pro is a client-side spam filter that works with Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Thunderbird. (There's also a server-side version.) SpamFighter can automatically add your contacts list to its white list of addresses that should never be blocked. Also, if a a spam email gets past SpamFighter, one click by the user will delete it from the desktops of all SpamFighter users. I'm not sure that's a good thing; one person's spam is another's steak.

What's YOUR spam filtering solution? Post a comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Anti-Spam Email Filters"

Posted by:

Jo
17 May 2011

I have been using Yahoo Plus Mail. There are several advantages, one being that If I change my ISP, I don't have to change my email. Another is the Disposable Email Addresses feature. You can have 500 disposable email addresses. The mail from these email addresses comes in to your regular mailbox without anyone knowing what your real email address is. If you start getting unwanted mail of any kind, you can just delete that address and the unwanted mail stops. Well worth $20 per year.


Posted by:

Joseph
17 May 2011

Couple of points.

A nasty and expensive server side application is Fortinet which tries to claim it doesn't get false positives (which is a bad joke), and the client administrator can't apparently unblock somebody even if he wants to.

Spamfighter is great. It DOESN'T block an email address just because somone clicks - it blocks a given EMAIL configuration. They know that most real spam uses a different address every time and they succeed in what they do by going after the message, not the medium. I found them usually much more than 90% right and with nearly zero false positives. But I was able to unblock those because (unlike with server side applications) I saw them in my spam directory. Unfortunately I had to stop using them because Microsoft seems incapable of keeping my legal copy of Outlook up to date and that means Spamfighter stopped updating too.


Posted by:

Ron
17 May 2011

I use AOL as my prime email. I have found their spam filter quite effective in that most of the time the email that is identified as spam and thrown into the spam folder is correctly identified. Spam that finds its way into the new mail is easily spotted and eliminated by clicking the spam button. I know that some people bad mouth AOL, but I find that AOL's email program is more intuitive than other browsers.


Posted by:

michael egerton
17 May 2011

Hi,
A useful filter in googlemail that I read fairly recently was create a filter From: "is:spam", (not in inverted commas), then Do this - Skip Inbox and Delete it.
Works 99.9% of the time except the occasional spam from a hotmail address, then I've got to set this up individually.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
18 May 2011

I have used MailWasher from the beginning, when it was a Free program. I now use the Pro version. I have been extremely pleased with MailWasher Pro. It is user friendly, works well & gets the job done.

I main reason that I like this program, is that I have control over it, not my ISP Email Server or anyone else. I have found through my experience, the more control I have over my computer, the better the results.

I will purchase the new MailWasher Pro 2011 eventually, but for now, the version that I have is working fine & gets the job done. What I do like about this company, Firetrust, is that they do honor their claims, that when you purchase MailWasher Pro, you will NOT pay for updates or upgrades for the lifetime of that version. My version is about 5 years old & I never paid for any updates or upgrades.


Posted by:

Bruce Berberich
18 May 2011

I HAVE loved MailwasherPro for perhaps 10 or 15 years.

Sadly, the MailWasher folks can not figure out how to make it work on my Windows 7 machine. I get an endless "Waiting for server app ready flag" on startup and Mailwasher does not load.

I've worked with the MailWasher folks on this and they said that it was interference from my firewall or from my antivirus.

I spent one hour and 25 minutes with a very bright lady from Symantec in the Philippines. We tried everything, to include disabling the the firewall and even uninstalling my Norton 360.

Neither the Symantec firewall nor their anti-virus was the problem. Apparently the problem is with MailWasher's interaction with Windows 7.

I won't recommend MailWasherPRO until it will work with Windows 7. :o(

Bruce Berberich
Greenville, NC


Posted by:

Stan
18 May 2011

I've been using MailWasher for almost as long as it's been out, and at first it was free. The program is fantastic, is easy to use and setup. It maintains a White list and a Black list and filters. But I'm now in limbo, as they've transitioned to a new version and are not including it with the 'Lifetime' license I bought a while back.

They rewrote it, giving it a updated look and feel but decided to charge for this new version - giving a slight break to previous users who paid for licenses.

'Moxie' up above writes that she likes it as they 'honor their claims' and 'you will NOT pay for updates or upgrades.' When she bought it, it came with 'free lifetime updates', and now she says she's going to pay for it again.

In the new version they eliminated reporting to 'Spam Cop', which reports spam to senders' ISP and sometimes their web hosts, maintains a 'DNS Black Hole List' and more. When they put it back I'll probably spend the bucks and buy it.


Posted by:

Lee Doan
24 May 2011

I have tried many spam filters. The best I have found is Spamihilator. Used it with Opera and Thunderbird. I found this the easiest to use. Many spam filter options and plugins.
yMail (from SpaceJock -NOT YahooMail) was interesting, but there were some things about it I couldnt get to work.
Also, as far as webmail goes, GMail is the best at filtering.


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