Spam, E-mail, and Filters

We all live with spam. It is a fact of Internet life that without serious spam filters, we would be overwhelmed by spam. Some statistics say that spam accounts for as much as 90% of all e-mail sent today. I don’t understand why spam works, and it must, otherwise it wouldn’t be so prevalent. Folks, the number one rule about spam is don’t click, don’t respond, just throw it away. If nobody responded, there would be no spam! Fortunately, there are good filters out there, some of which work much better than others.

I was reminded about this over the weekend when an old e-mail address that I have had since 1995 suddenly had its Postini mail filter removed because the ISP that hosted my e-mail until recently hadn’t paid their bill.  I was getting around 500 spam an hour, compared to 2-3 real e-mails that still came to that old address. Obscene!  I had the e-mail address shut off as the simple solution despite the fact I didn’t really want to loose it. 

I could have lived with it. I use an excellent Bayesian spam filter with Apple Mail called SpamSieve. It works with most major Mac e-mail clients including Microsoft Entourage and Mozilla Thunderbird and despite the serious number of spams flooding my inbox, most were actually immediately moved to the Spam folder so my Inbox stayed rather empty – I am a firm believer in a zero mail in my Inbox time management policy.  I just didn’t want to have all my bandwidth wasted by a bunch of junk mail.

I really like Postini (now owned by Google) and believe it is one of the best tools an ISP can use to reduce the amount of data flowing into their mail server.  There are a lot of great anti-spam tools an ISP can use including Baracuda, SpamAssassin, etc that the ISP can have and stop spam before it reaches their users but Postini stops it before it ever gets to the ISP and that is well worth the cost of Postini.  I don’t get a lot of traffic going to my mail server so I have SpamAssassin in conjunction with a greylisting tool and ClamAV to keep most spam and viruses away from me at my new e-mail addresses. The greylisting tool is great for keeping traffic at a minimal level since most spammers don’t get a chance to actually send the spam. It is an advantage of having my own mail server (there are several downsides too, I don’t recommend any business 

Other tools one can use include the built in anti-spam tools built into many e-mail clients. Mozilla Thunderbird has pretty good filters built in. You can also buy or download other filters similar to SpamSieve for all operating systems. Linux people often incorporate SpamAssassin on their workstation.  A quick search on www.download.com produced a ton of anti-spam filters, some free. SpamSieve is $30 and is well worth the cost. Some of the newer Internet security tools from companies such as Symantec, McAfee, and Grisoft have workable anti-spam tools as well.  Unfortunately, you still have to download all that spam to your e-mail client before it can be filtered and that is what I find unacceptable.

For many, if your ISP doesn’t provide at least rudimentary anti-spam filtering, the best solution is to get a Gmail account at Google. Google has great spam filtering. Yahoo and AOL do as well but I haven’t used my Yahoo or AOL e-mail accounts that much so can not say from personal experience how good they are. 

Businesses can get Gmail plus a whole bunch more in Google Apps for all their employees in their own domain for relative inexpensive annual fees. Again, this keeps the nasties off of the business’ local network and leaves it up to Google to deal with. Yahoo has similar (and some say even better) services for businesses. It appears that Google also can offer Postini directly to businesses as well so that is an excellent option as well.

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One thought on “Spam, E-mail, and Filters

  1. mreveal

    I think being able to have my email filtered before it gets to my computer is the best way to go. I know with Postini, you are able to log in and see what it caught just in case it catches something you want. I have had filters on my computer but it seems to slow down everything. I have a gmail account and a hotmail account and I think the gmail account is filterd better. I don’t get as much junk there.

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