Options for Fighting Spam

1/9/2010

When you enter the world of the internet with an email address you start the war against spam. They will find you, and once they do your mailbox will never be the same again. Just to give you an idea of how bad it is, I’m going to turn off my own spam filter while I write this and by the end I’ll give you an idea of what I battle on a daily basis.

How did they get my address?

Spammers harvest your email address through a variety of channels. The most popular method is to send computer programs through the web to harvest email addresses. If you have ever registered for something online, posted to a web site message board, included your email address on an article or web site page, you will be found. The other way that email addresses are harvested is through “open” mail servers who will respond to spammer computer programs and will provide lists of every email address on that mail server. Since there are few places to hide, what can you do about the mail once it starts?

Change your identity

Many times we suggest to a target of abusive spam (when others sign up for spam to be sent to a target because of spite or anger – typically results in 500 + messages per day) that they change their email address entirely. That is very inconvenient because of all of the mail that might be lost from other business sources and the time that it takes to notify associates with your new address. For some, though, this is the only solution.

Use the spam filters from within Outlook

Outlook has become the most popular business email program because of its ease of use and features. There is a powerful Rule system that you can set up that will capture some of your spam once it arrives in your mailbox. Some good online resources for more details on how to set these rules up can be found here:

If setting up filters in Outlook seems complicated, try this free product that does it for you: http://www.spamfighter.com/Product_Info.asp

Use other programs to filter the spam

I’ve tried a number of “third-party” programs that run in the background and filter the spam as it arrives. Some of these programs are very effective at removing the spam while removing very few business related messages (it will happen with any filter solution). Recently PC Magazine rated all of the major spam filters and rated McAfee’s highest. I decided to try it for $39 -http://us.mcafee.com/root/product.asp?productid=msk . McAfee catches about 80% of my spam and about 5% of my business email. I still like some other services best. I’ve listed two that I have tried below:

Other programs that have been rated highly, but not ones I've tried directly:

Blocking Spam at the Mail Server Level - SpamSoap

The volume of spam is up to 85 billion messages a day (November 2007) and that's twice the amount from a year before. There is a reason why you seem to be inundated with spam.

You may wonder by AFS does not just block most of your spam at the server level. We have weighed this question on a regular basis and actually do block the worst spam at the server level before it reaches you. Our concern is that we never want to block a legitimate message that should have reached you because of a "false positive". We err on the side of letting most of the email traffic through our servers so that you can choose how to deal with the spam you receive and are also in control for what is blocked. We offer a subscription service to SpamSoap www.spamsoap.com for email cleaning on the domain level. This service works by having all of your inbound email directed through SpamSoap's cleaning service prior to it arriving at our server and then moving on to your inbox. We charge $45 / month for the service. Just let us know if you would like to try the service for your domain.

Blocking Spam at the Mail Server Level - SmarterMail Settings

The mail server software that we use for your hosting service also has spam filtering settings that can be put in place on the domain level and on the individual user level. Any spam that is filtered using these settings is usually stored on the mail server for you so that you can log in and check them from time to time. This way no email is lost. You will need to clean out these messages so your box size limit is not reached due to the spam sitting there. We will update this article soon with instructions on how to login and set your filters on the mail server. If you need these instructions right away, please call our office at 614-479-0000.

Does using the “unsubscribe” link in most spam work?

No. In fact, for many spam companies, they will increase the amount of spam you receive because they know you are a “live body”.

Amount of spam I’ve received while creating this article – 24.
Time spent – 45 minutes.


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