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.

Tagged on: , , ,

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.

Leave a Reply