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Spam - How to limit it in your inbox

August 26, 2003
Keywords:

Herbal Viagra, anatomy enlargements, academical degrees, buy a bride(groom), US$100,000,000 transfers and various pyramid scams. The longer you have had your email address the more spam (unsolicited email) you are getting each day. During the last 3 years I have been looking into avoiding spam emails in my inbox and here is some advice.

Be netwise
First step is to limit the exposure of your email address. This is necessary because spammers collect email addresses from the Internet and buy email addresses from not so honest web businesses.

When signing up to ANYTHING online/offline make sure you check the fine print of what the company can and will do with your email address. Select not to receive any information from 3rd parties. Asses the risk of the company selling on your email, is it really worth the 1 in million chance of winning a fluffy stuffed animal?

Create a separate hotmail account dedicated to registration emails only. Give this address whenever asked during registration processes.

There is a new service called Mailinator that you can use when in need of a temporary email address. It works by creating email addresses on the fly, when a message is being delivered. So next time you are asked for an email address, give the service something random @mailinator.com. Later you can pick up the confirmation email you wanted but don't have to worry about future spam. Just remember that anybody can pick up that confirmation email if they guess the address so there is 0 privacy with this service.

Disable preview of emails in your client. When an HTML email is displayed, images are fetched from the spammers servers and immediately your email address will be marked as active. By previewing spam you will receive even more.

Never ever reply to spam. The return address will be forged 99% of the time and you are only wasting your time and bandwidth.

Do not use the unsubscribe links in obvious spam emails. Once again typing in your email in any fake unsubscribe forms will indicate you are real and alive and want more spam.

Masquerade (munge) your email address if whenever you are leaving it on discussion forums or other web sites where it may become visible to any visitor. Some common ways to masquerade it is to replace "." and "@" with the words "dot" and "at" or add some silly word in the middle of the address, eg NOSPAMING.

Software
If you follow the rules above you should minimize the risk for future spam but what about the current flood of spam? Below are some software solutions that you can use.

Mailwasher is my favorite 1st defense. It downloads a preview of your email from the mail server and tries to determine whether it is good or spam. From a list of emails you can select which ones to delete without even downloading them. When done, you then use your regular email client to retrieve the spam free messages.

I am using the FREE version 2.0.28 that allows you to use multiple POP3 and Hotmail accounts. The most recent FREE version 2.0.40 is limited to one POP3 account and does not allow Hotmail account. The FULL software is great and well worth the $30.

The software detects spam by a combination of keywords and known spam sources (black listed servers).

Make sure to deselect the bounce feature as it has been reported to let the spammers know you are real and increase spam.

Below is a list of DNS black list servers that I am using:

  • list.dsbl.org

  • multihop.dsbl.org

  • sbl.spamhaus.org

  • proxies.relays.monkeys.com

  • relays.osirusoft.com

  • dnsbl.njabl.org

  • proxies.blackholes.easynet.nl

  • dnsbl.sorbs.net

Cloudmark SpamNet is a more automated software as it is a plug-in for MS Outlook (support for Outlook Express coming soon). When you mark an email as spam, it will be marked as spam in the Inbox of any other subscriber of SpamNet.

The email client of Netscape 7.1 is reported to be very effective in eliminating spam. There is a Bayesian filter at the core of the spam filter. It works by learning what spam is and what is good email. As such, it is reported to take some time (1 week) before getting accurate (95%).

If you are on a corporate network and getting too much spam email to your work address ask the administrator to install a spam filter.

Identify spammer
Identifying the spammer is tricky and it requires you to have a look at the header of the email. Forget the return address, it is almost always forged. SpamCop does a great job at identifying the culprit and even lets you send complaint to administrators of their network.

More information
Spamcop
News groups (alt.spam)



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Comments

  1. Carlos Teixeira Says:

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    David,
    I enjoyed the site and journal very much indeed.
    Congratulations!
    I also enjoyed the news about your bad and good week end and the photos.
    Cheers,
    Carlos

  2. Sean Radford Says:

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    David,

    I use Popfile, which can be foundon sourceforge. Depends on the type of emails you get, but it's nearly 99.9% accurate for me :-)

  3. Mongrel Says:

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    Hey Senor,

    Just thought I'd add to the comments by saying that this is making some pretty kewl reading (am working my way backwards, chronologically) and that this post would be excellent for Marina - she gets loads of spam, except its probably over her head, technology-wise.

    Shame :-(

  4. David Says:

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    Hey Dude! Maybe she can use some info from the be netwise bit. Or maybe a helpfull boyfriend can install Mailwasher for her?

  5. DC Says:

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    I recently decided I'd had enough spam when the spam outnumbered the real email by 10 to 1. I guess that proves that I've had my email addresses too long and they've ended up on everybody's lists. Even with it's flaws I still use Outlook Express. I've used OE since 2000, before that on the Windows side I used Eudora, Pegasus Mail and Netmanage Chameleon. (anybody remember that one?) I considered using Mozilla Thunderbird because of its spam filtering, but it's still at version 0.4 and doesn't look quite ready yet. And then I found Spam Bully at http://www.spambully.com> , a spam filter add-in for Outlook and Outlook Express. It took about a day to train but after that all my spam is out of my inbox and safely diverted to a spam folder. So far I'm pleased and will probably buy the program after the evaluation period is up.

  6. David Kaspar Says:

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    I'd still recommend you to try Thunderbird before purchasing Spambully:

    1. Thunderbird spam filtering is also based on a Bayesian self-learning spam filter and is reported to be very efficient

    2. Majority of email exploits are directed to Outlook/OE and can easily be avoided with alternative software

    3. Thunderbird is Open Source which means FREE and with a large development base

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