Plagued by Spam- (1)

(Originally written and posted in 2009 by Jerry Caruso)

Plagued by Spam?

Some Helpful Advice From Jerry      

One of the main problems plaguing the Internet today is the proliferation of spam. Most everyone knows what spam is but not how and why we get it or, more importantly, how to avoid attracting it. The bad news is until we start taxing the Internet ( and believe me, that’s coming) spam is here to stay. How do we get spam, or more accurately, how do we end up with spammer email databases? There are a number of ways, but the three most common are:

  1. Your email address is on a website somewhere
  1. You signed up online for something (for example, a forum or message board) and now your name has been sold over and over again. (Note: There is no danger of this happening with the Networks Plus newsletter)
  1. A virus-infected machine harvested your address from someone else’s PC.

Although there is nothing you can do about #3 (unless it’s your machine) there are some things you can do about #1 and #2.

If your email address appears on your website or your company’s website, make sure it is sufficiently obfuscated to avoid detection by web-bots. What does this mean? Spammers release web-bots, which are programs that scour web pages looking for email addresses. Clever web design thwarts this activity by disguising the email address from the bots while keeping it visible to humans.

Everyone should have a throw-away email address created specifically for spam. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, et al, are all great candidates. This throw-away email address can be used any time you have to give an email address, such as when you are signing up for something or shopping online. They are free, so why not take advantage of the service?

Let’s talk about filtering. Although spam filtering software has improved significantly, it is still a cat and mouse game mostly won by spammers. The techniques for bypassing these filters always seem to be one step ahead of the anti-spam programs. The other problem with spam filtering at your computer is that all that spam still needs to be downloaded to be sorted by the filter. This can make Monday mornings especially tedious. Spam should be stopped AT the email server before it even reaches your desktop. Contact your email hosting company for more information on how to build a spam filter wall.

At Networks Plus we prefer the layered approach. Our email servers have a pre-filter called Spam Assassin which measures the possibility that email is spam based on an algorithm. It then assigns a spam value to the message. You set your spam filter from 1 to 10. The lower the number, the lower is your spam tolerance. A 10 setting allows most spam to go through. Set at a 1, some legitimate email may get blocked.

Another layer which is very effective is the whitelist/blacklist. Blacklisting allows you to block specific email addresses and/or domain names. This is especially effective for those annoying relatives who insist on sending stupid jokes and chain emails. Blacklisting your own email address is an effective way of blocking spam from:you – to:you. When was the last time you sent yourself an email? The whitelist is used to bypass filtering that blocks legitimate email. Using this filter in conjunction with the low Spam Assassin setting should reduce your spam to a reasonable level.

It only takes a few minutes to implement these spam-eliminating measures, the result of which will save you from overusing the “delete” button on your keyboard. Give us a call if you need further assistance or personalized instructions. Networks Plus will be happy to help you prevail in your battle against spam.