Anti-Spam Solutions

Category: Spam

The average email user is bombarded with over 2,000 spam messages per year, according to a consensus of spam fighters. It's become more than just an annoyance, since spam emails can also be malicious. Here's the latest info on the damage that spam can do, and how to protect your inbox...

Anti-Spam Solutions

How Can I Block Spam?

Your daily deluge of spam includes overt unsolicited sales pitches; sneaky phishing scams that impersonate familiar businesses; fake "You'll like this" messages that seem to be from friends, which lure you to click on dangerous attachments; and all the other forms that spam can take. To view recent statistics on the sources and percentages of spam types, visit Avira Antivirus' Tech Blog's Phishing, Spam, and Malware Statistics pages.

Worse, business email addresses are targeted by spammers and phishers with extra emphasis. They want to dupe employees into giving them the passwords to corporate networks where large amounts of valuable data and resources reside. Enterprise IT managers need the best spam filter program possible.

Email is not the only vector by which spam is delivered. Cell phone text messaging based upon the SMS protocol is another popular channel for spam. An SMS spam filter is an essential cellphone accessory. I've only gotten a few spams via texting, but as smartphone usage increases, the amount of spam on your mobile phone will very likely increase.

Anti-spam solutions come in versions for home/individual users and large networks of computers. The home versions of antispam filtering software are frequently free, as long as your usage is non-commercial in nature. Charges for commercial users of an antispam solution can run from $20 a year to several thousand dollars, depending on the strength of the solution and the number of email accounts protected. My related article Free Anti-Spam Tools has links to some helpful tools and techniques that you can use to reduce spam in your email inbox.

Fighting Spam at the Server Level

Server spam protection is software that runs on an email server to block spam as the single point where it enters an enterprise network. It uses a set of spam filter rules to judge whether each piece of incoming mail should be delivered to a mailbox or quarantined in a "junk mail" folder on the server. Suspected spam is saved for a period of time in case it was mislabeled; a user can check the junk mail folder and retrieve any message that he or she actually wants.

Filtering out spam consumes quite a bit of server resources, slowing down email delivery and the entire enterprise network to some degree. It also requires staff with expertise in spam filtering. So some corporations outsource spam work to third-party email spam filter services.

A hosted spam filter is often included with Web hosting or managed hosting services. The same firm that hosts and manages your Web site(s) and email server(s) also takes care of antispam solutions.

A subspecies of hosted spam filters is the spam filter ISP. This type of firm does nothing but handle incoming email for many client organizations. Its antispam software is usually the best available; its staff has nothing to do but kill spam; and its specialization tends to make it very good at antispam solutions. Firms in this business include Barracuda Networks, Mailshell ASP, Orange Business Services Managed Anti-Spam, Verizon Managed Security, TrustLayer from Panda, Norman Online Protection (NOP), and IBM Express managed e-mail security.

Personally, I've found that the one of the best anti-spam solutions is to use a web-based email service like GMail, Yahoo Mail or AOL webmail. They tend to have effective spam filtering built-in, and the popularity of these tools makes it possible for them to use the 'wisdom of the crowd' to quickly zap spams as they come in.

What spam filtering tools do you find most effective? Post a comment or question below...

 
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Posted by on 7 Jul 2010


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Most recent comments on "Anti-Spam Solutions"

Posted by:

Rich
08 Jul 2010

I use a two stage filter and I get about 1-2 spam emails a week. Many weeks - none.

First stage - every single entity that I correspond with gets their own email address to reach me - no exceptions. That is an email forwarding system (such as www.Sneakemail.com) which then forwards that email on to my real address. That way, whoever misuses the address I have given to them is quickly revealed in the header of the arriving offending spam. That one gets thrown away, they are gently reprimanded and I create a new address to give them. Hardly anyone has to be told twice. Nobody gets my "real" address, ever.

Second stage is gmail (my real address) where the contents are screened for content and thus my final spam filter.

A little bit of work initially but boy does it work. Commercial sites who I really don't want to hear from again that require that I register my email address are thrown away almost instantly or as soon as they've served their purpose.


Posted by:

Elmo
08 Jul 2010

Here's a SPAM filter that will send anyone not in your address book to a specified folder. You might need to look in it occasionally for addresses you missed, before deleting the rest. Here's what I've suggested for the basic user that doesn't have unnamed clients emailing you:

Stop SPAM and other malware! Create two mail rules in OE.

In Outlook Express, click Tools, Message Rules, Mail.

_First_rule:_

A. In "Select the conditions for your rule" click "Where the from line contains people", click "contains people", click Address Book, click the first name, shift-click the last, click "From" button, click OK.

B. In "Select the actions for your rule", click "Stop processing more rules". This will let everyone in your address book fall through to your Inbox.

C. Name the first rule "Pass" or "Accept".

_Second_rule:_

A. In "Select the conditions for your rule" click "For all messages"

B. In "Select the actions for your rule", click "Move to the specified folder". Click "Specified" in the bottom pane, click New Folder, type SPAM, click OK, click the SPAM folder to highlight, click OK to select that folder.

C. Name the rule "SPAM".

This moves the unwanted emails to the SPAM folder.

_If you find an email in the SPAM folder you don't want filtered_

- Click and drag the email to the Inbox. While it's still highlighted:

- Click "Message", "Create Rule from Message".

- In "Select conditions for your rule":

"Where the From line contains people" should already be checked and should show the email address of the person you're adding under "Rule Description".

- In "Select the actions for your rule"

Click "Stop Processing more rules".

- "Name the rule"

Name the rule after the individual so it's easier to recognize.

Make sure the rule is NOT listed last. If it is, move it upwards. The SPAM rule must be the last one listed.

_Advantages_

1. No SPAM or other malware from email! No amount of filtering by sender or subject matter will prevent spammers; they use a different subject and address every few days. But this setup prevents ALL SPAM from fictitious addresses.

2. Few Viruses! Only viruses from compromised systems which have your email address in their address book.

3. After checking through subject lines in the SPAM folder, you can delete all the spam, etc. without viewing them. Press Ctrl/A to select all subjects, press Shift/Delete to permanently delete all messages in the SPAM folder. This way, short of viewing the first email in the list, no other email is actually viewed.

_With_Thunderbird_

(OE7 might have this feature too.)

Create one rule. Click:

Tools, Message Filters, Filters for Email account, New, make the Filter Name "SPAM", If "From" "isn't in my address book" "Personal Address Book", Perform these actions: "Move Message to" "Trash on Local Folders".

Check Unread messages in the Trash folder and delete occasionally. Drag to the Inbox if you want to keep one. Right-click the email in the header, click "Add to Address Book" if you find you've missed one.

Now, isn't that simple?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Works fine, until your friend's computer is compromised, and starts sending you malware-infested emails with subject lines that are not obviously spammy.


Posted by:

David
08 Jul 2010

I have used a program called Mailwasher for many years. The program allows me to inspect incoming mail at my ISP's server, and to deal with messages in a number of ways.

The best feature is that I can mark a message for *bounce*. That will generate a *false* message to the sender that informs them that the address to which my mail was sent is invalid.

I now receive fewer than two spam messages a month.

Best $29.95 I have ever spent!

Look at www.mailwasher.net for more.


Posted by:

John
08 Jul 2010

I just counted them... I got exactly 75 spams yesterday alone (a whopping 27,000 per year). My glorious spam filter, SpamSieve, caught every single one of them. I might get 2 or 3 a week that it doesn't catch, usually a Viagra ad supposedly sent to me from myself. (I could train it to easily avoid that too, but haven't bothered yet.) SpamSieve has proven so reliable that I NEVER check my spam filter anymore, unless someone I've never corresponded with says he sent me an email (which almost never happens).

If I were a geek, I'd make a script to empty my spam folder automatically on a daily or weekly basis, but I don't know how to do that.


Posted by:

Alex
08 Jul 2010

I also use Mailwasher, and I often go for days at a time without SPAM. I don't know if Charter (my ISP) is also filtering, but I doubt it.

I went for about a year without "bouncing" out of Mailwasher, as many (including the Mailwasher people) say not to do it, as it clogs up the "net. I got Spam almost every day. I started bouncing it a few months ago, and I rarely get any any more.

My approach is two pronged;
1.) if the Spammers get enough bounce messages back, it might call a server's attention, and get them shut off.
2.) If the bounce messages contribute to the overall email mess that is clogging the arteries of the Internet, maybe SOMEBODY will take steps to stop it.


Posted by:

Elizabeth S.
08 Jul 2010

I have been using Mailwasher since waaaaay back when it was a free program. It's wonderful! I have a web site which has become sufficiently popular as to attract periodic attacks.

Ever since a dictionary-spam attack some years ago, I've had to have my e-mail hosted by a dedicated service. That is my first layer of protection since, as a dedicated e-mail service, most spam is caught before it ever reaches any of my mailboxes. (The highest count I can remember is 180-some thousand e-mails in one twenty-four-hour period.)

But once the mail is in a mailbox, Mailwasher allows me to "see" what is sitting there. Most spam is VERY easy to recognize as such when one gets a sneak peak at the contents. I've already deleted 261 spam messages today.

By allowing the user to check mail on the server, Mailwasher lets you make your "keep or can" decision without exposing your computer to any of the messages. I have not had a problem with e-mail-based attacks since installing Mailwasher.


Posted by:

Ben
10 Jul 2010

If I'm understanding things correctly, all of these 3rd party anti-spam products are designed to do one thing... keep spam out of the inbox. You still need to check the product to make sure legitimate emails aren't marked as spam and spam emails don't wind up in the inbox. Correct?

If your email provider's own spam filters are correctly putting spam in the spam folder and legitimate emails in the inbox, there's really no need for a 3rd party anti-spam product. Do I understand this correctly?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Well, yes... but many people find that the generic filtering done on the server level needs to be supplemented with filters that are more specific to the individual user.


Posted by:

Rosie
12 Jul 2010

Don't have any programs other than what bellsouth provides, but I do this with all spam - only takes a moment: I forward to Fed'l Trade Comm. ;

I hope the FTC does take action on at least some of these.

Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA


Posted by:

Patrick Coppage
12 Jul 2010

Spam. I get my share but nothing to worry over.
If I get email I don't expect I mark it as spam and it get shoved into my 'Spam' folder. The folder lives in a 'sandbox' so, if I open it and click on what's in it, the crap can't touch my system.
An aside, I'm not that busy so I have time to mess with this stuff.


Posted by:

RitaLouise
12 Jul 2010

I have Earthlink and they do a very good job of trashing spam. Some does get into my suspect file, but very little. Other than that I have AVG free, and am prudent about the sites. AVG also tags any sites that are suspect. I am not working from home, nor do I have financial information on my system, so I am low key by most standards, and I have not had a problem in the 15 years I have been on the internet.


Posted by:

Joe Gill
12 Jul 2010

I use a multiple tools to do the job

A) First My ATT Yahoo mail has a SPAM filtering tool, SPAMGUARD PLUS. Nice thing is that if an address is in your online address book, they it is marked as SAFE. It also uses some sort of technique to block certain sources.


B) Then ALL (including BULK/SPAM) my mail is 'popped' by SPAMCOP.NET. During the 'popping' process, the SPAM is tagged '[BULK] by ATT/YAHOO I pay $30/year for mail filtering. I have chosen opptions on this system to mark as SPAM, anything over 5 on SpamAssasin. I also have enabled all of the BLACKLISTS they create/use:SpamCop,Spamhaus Blacklist.South Korea (the country) ,China (the country),Nigeria,Argentina,Brazil,Composite Blocking List,Spamhaus XBL,Spamhaus PBL. Finally. I have chosen to block all Russian mail. The final filter is a 'greylisting' process that SPAMCOP has. Very few entries have ever been false positives.

C) Any mail that make it through all that, I report as soon as possible in SPAMCOP to keep their RBL as current as possible!

My email addresses are all over the internet in USENET groups, web pages, forums, etc, and I get only 10 or so SPAMs a week that hit my inbox.


Posted by:

Matt
13 Jul 2010

My wife and I use two POPmail addresses from comcast.net as our primary home email addresses. We receive around a thousand emails a month. Maybe one or two of those are spam that has leaked through Comcast's spam filters. Consequently, we do not need to use antispam utilities on our computers. We are all quick to complain when our ISP screws up; it is only fair to praise our ISP when it does something really well.


Posted by:

Mark Zilberman, LCSW
13 Jul 2010

The best way to avoid spam is with a program called Cloudmark. Period. Cloudmark works by communicating with a server that communicates with every other user. These users identify spam by clicking on it. This sends a message to the server. Then, all of your email goes through this very educated filter. No formulas or algorithms. Just the aggregate of millions of human eyeballs voting out bad email. Very, very rarely one sneaks through. Then, I vote it down. Then, it won't bother anyone ever again. I get about 2K spam per week. I see 1 or two. It takes a village.


Posted by:

Ariel
13 Jul 2010

How come I only get 2 spams/month. I have Gmail and Live mail I have no 3rd party spam blocker software. Am I invisible? Doesn't anyone care enough to spam me? I'm hurt. What can i do about it?


Posted by:

pdsterling
13 Jul 2010

I don't think the article was very accurate; I get approximately 2000 spam messages/day at work, largely because my IT department did not disguise my email address on the web-site (funny I know how to do this, and they don't)

We have some sort of stupid service that filters out a lot of spam, but then sends me an email to tell me to go look at it - what a pain!

As to forwarding the email to the FTC, I wonder if they ever do anything about it!? I understand that its very easy to mail an email broadcast completely anonymous (like an envelope with no return address)

I wish we could get a *LOT* more protections - I view each and every piece of spam as a potential crime, and have no sympathy for people who say they are only advertising legitimately.

Oh, BTW, never order anything from Haband (you know, the Sans-A-Belt people) You will be set up to get spammed three times a day, every day for life!


Posted by:

Dave
15 Jul 2010

The article was interesting, but the comments were just as good. It's always interesting reading about other people's spam filtering systems.

I'm careful about putting my e-mail address on the web. I have several websites and my address on them is always encrypted. I also use disposable addresses, both Gmail and the paid YahooPlus - I used a disposable Gmail address on this site.

For e-mail I use Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo. They're my first filter and they snag a good number of spam. Then I aggregate my e-mail addresses with Thunderbird, which has its own spam filter. As a result I see almost no spam.

Thanks to everyone that commented. I learn something every day.


Posted by:

hmayer
15 Jul 2010

Some of my colleagues have a spam blocker which requires any new contact to send a confirmation before the email will go through. Does anyone know about this and, if so, does it work? All of a sudden, I started receiving about 50 additional spam messages per day from all sorts of random sites, and I don't know why. I never even open them, just delete, but it's becoming a huge pain. I don't even want to sort through them, so any program which just separates them is a waste.


Posted by:

Thomas Campion
30 Sep 2010

I'm Exclusive with my inbox. Everything else goes to JUNK. NEVER open or DELETE spam. Then they know you exist. The FTC did nothing when I got hackked and told me to just get another account. And we pay these people how much??????????


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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Anti-Spam Solutions (Posted: 7 Jul 2010)
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