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I Have Finally Tamed SP'AM

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WildComputer.com > Computer Tips > I Have Finally Tamed SP'AM


I Have Finally Tamed SP'AM

by David Berky

Yes, despite the growing amount of SP'AM I get every day, I have finally been able to tame the flow.

How did I accomplish this amazing feat?

An alternate email client and a simple SP'AM filter product.

For years I have used Qualcomm's Eudora as my email client of choice. Eudora has free, ad-sponsored, and paid versions of its software. I have been a paid customer for about 3 years now.

Because of the way Eudora is designed I have never had a email virus get through an infect my system. I have never had a Trojan horse or other spyware software automatically installed without my knowledge nor have I had my contact's list abused by an email worm.

Eudora doesn't allow it. Hasn't for years. While Microsoft Outlook has been exploited by almost every virus and worm ever designed, to my knowledge Eudora hasn't fallen to any automatic or surreptitious infections or exploitations.

It can't protect you from opening attached files that may contain viruses or visiting web sites that try to install spyware or Trojan software. But Eudora, along with my up-to-date Norton Anti-Virus, has kept my computer virus free for years. (I also use Ad-Aware to scan for spyware and Trojans that could be installed when I download and test new software.)

I operate a few web sites and have and have several different email addresses. I use my email addresses when posting to Usenet groups, purchasing advertising and sending newsletters. I am sure most of my addresses are on every SP'AM list in existence.

I get a lot of SP'AM through each of my accounts. If I have ever used the email address to order a product or service, make a post on a web site, Usenet or forum or posted that address anywhere on the web it is now on at least one SP'AM list somewhere.

About a year ago my SP'AM started to become unmanageable. Between my several accounts I was getting nearly 225 messages a day, of which 200 were SP'AM.

So I started using Eudora's filters to catch obvious SP'AM and objectionable words or phrases. Eudora allows you to quickly create a filter on a message's subject or From address with just a few clicks.

After creating my filters I noticed my Junk box start to fill automatically and I found few false positives (valid messages caught by the filters). But every day I was adding new filters for subject lines, From addresses and keywords.

Then the SP'AMmers started getting smarter. They would add random characters to their subject lines or From addresses to fool my filters.

When I got up to around 500 filters my email was taking a noticeably longer time to be filtered and I was still spending time creating new filters - at least 10 each day.

So I decided to look for another solution. I didn't want to change my email addresses because I need to allow customers to contact me. And I didn't want to find and replace all my email addresses all over my web sites. And I would still have to check my old addresses as well as my new ones until the transition was complete. And most likely I would just have got a whole new set of email addresses added to the SP'AMmers' lists within a month or two.

After looking for a while I came across a program called MailWasher. MailWasher checks your email accounts before you download your email into your email client software (Eudora in my case). For each email message on your email server, MailWasher compares the From address to a list of known SP'AMmers. You can also add addresses to your own "White" and "Black" lists. (A "White" list contains addresses of people you want to receive email from, a "Black" list is a list of blocked addresses.)

After processing the email messages, MailWasher presents you with a list of all your emails (combined from all accounts) and marks each one as "Friend", "Probably SP'AM", "Blacklisted by…" or "Blacklisted". Messages marked "Friend" are from those on your White list; "Blacklisted" are from addresses on your Black list; "Probably SP'AM" are messages MailWasher determined are probably SP'AM. And "Blacklisted by…" are from addresses of known SP'AMmers or addresses that the SP'AMmers have been using.

I sort the messages by their Status ("Friend, etc.) and then scan through just the unmarked messages. There are three columns that you can use to mark messages to be deleted, bounced, and blacklisted. I click on the check box in the Blacklist column and the message is automatically added to my Blacklist, marked to be bounced and marked for deletion.

Messages that are marked "Probably SP'AM", "Blacklisted by…" and "Blacklisted" are automatically marked for bouncing and deletion. (Bouncing means to send a message back to the sending email server saying that your address is bad. The idea is that the SP'AMmer will take your name off the list. But I don't think this ever happens since there is no cost to them to continuously send email to a bad address.)

When I have checked all the unmarked messages (and sometimes I skim through the "Blacklisted" messages to check for false-positives - I rarely find any), I click a button on the MailWasher toolbar and all the messages marked for deletion are deleted. I then do a final check of my accounts to make sure I haven't got any new messages during the process and then go to my email client.

In my email client, I click on the button to check email and only download the messages I want to receive. Now I just download the 25 messages I want instead of all messages along with the 200 SP'AMs.

This process may seem more complicated than just setting up filters, but it really does save time thanks to MailWasher sorting and marking the messages for me. I hardly ever check the messages MailWasher has already marked as SP'AM. And my Blacklist catches a good number also.

MailWasher has even figured out how to keep my Blacklist from getting too large and slowing down the software. Blacklisted addresses have a "shelf-life" of 6 months. After 6 months they are deleted. So SP'AMmers that only use the address once or twice are removed from my Blacklist and the Blacklist is kept to a manageable level.

One potential problem for me is if a customer is using an address on a mail server that is marked as a SP'AMming server. But in a year of using MailWasher that has only happened once (that I know of).

For more information about the products mentioned in this article visit these links:

http://www.eudora.com/ Eudora Email Client
http://www.mailwasher.net/ MailWasher SP'AM Filter
http://www.lavasoftusa.com/ SpyWare, AdWare Remover
http://www.symantec.com/product/ Norton Anti-Virus

MailWasher has also been awarded a Simple Joe Simple Software award for it's ease of use and simplicity. Visit http://www.simplejoe.com/simple-software.htm for more SimpleJoe award winners.

You too can tame your Inbox and eliminate SP'AM with products such as these and others. Microsoft is also rolling out new anti-SP'AM tools for Outlook, but the ones mentioned here have been available for years.

Take back your Inbox!

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© Simple Joe, Inc.
David Berky is president of Simple Joe, Inc. a marketing company that sells simple software under the brand name of Simple Joe. One of Simple Joe's best selling products is Simple Joe's Money Tools - a collection of 14 personal finance and investment calculators. This article may be freely distributed so long as the copyright, author's information and an active link (where possible) are included.

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