SPAM 2.0 lesson’s in stopping it.

Welcome back to The Weekly Geek. In this fact filled adventure of SPAM 2.0 I plan on walking you through several available SPAM software filtering programs.

In our previous edition I went over basic preventive measures. The unfortunate fact is no matter how careful you are someway, somewhere, somehow you are going to end up with junk mail.

Tere are plenty of SPAM filtering software programs out there for you to try and several different methods they use.

The methods primarily consist of Challenge-Response where no e-mail makes it to you, then sender receives a notice from your account asking to confirm who they are, if they take the time to confirm then the original email is forwarded to you. The benefits are that spammers do not want to take the time to respond to the challenge (which can be one of several different methods), the disadvantage is that if the sender has the same set up there will be and eternal loop of challenges with no responses, another disadvantage it that many non spammers will not reply to a challenge.

Another technology used is the Black list/White list. For this to work you create a list of all the people you know that you want to receive e-mail from. You can also create a list of senders who you want thrown straight into the trash, some of these programs keep a list of known spammers that the program refers to. There are many problems with this option, the first is that if you do not place someone on the white list then they go into a Junk Suspect file, if you do not check it regularly then you might be late on reading an important e-mail. Blacklist are created by other users and if you send out a lot of jokes and someone on that list does not want to be on it and they place you on their blacklist and the program places you on their internet database then you and your whole URL extension (the extension is the @internet part of your address –, aol is the extension) might be blacklisted. This has happened to a place I used to work at due to one person sending doezens of “jokes” a day to a list of several hundred people. The internet service provider for one of the recipients noticed that too much mail came from our extension and it blocked our email from making it to their extension. Since we has customers that that ISP serviced they were not receiving our e-mails, also they added us to a nationally know blacklist and even more ISP’s blocked all email from our extension. It took months to get it all cleaned up.

A third way of filtering SPAM is with mathematical formulas, specifically the Bayesian formula. These formulas assign points to the sender, subject line and information in the body of the email as well as to key words. The more items you add to the known SPAM folder the more the formula “learns” what is SPAM and what is not. The disadvantage was that this worked too well. Now spammers are sending general information inside the junk email. In the boxy they might write a generic letter about college and that creates confusion for the formula. Another trick is to make a play on words by changing the O to a 0 (zero) or misspelling a word (pR0n) so that you still know what it is but the formula must add it as another factor. Another problem with the formula’s is they need a lot of data to be accurate, most want 300 or more junk emails to create a basic filtering technique but several thousand is better, and who wants to take the time to create that large of a list of SPAM and keep them on your hard drive in a folder.

Different SPAM filters may use a variance of the above techniques or even a combination of the different techniques.

Through my personal use and trial of several filters I have chosen to use SpamBayes since it integrates with Microsoft Outlook. I have tried many programs that use the techniques above but this one is just best for me. You will need to pick a program that cooperates with the type of email you have (web based like Yahoo or Hotmail or ISP based that you download to your computer), your email client (Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, Pegasus and many others), and finally your personal email usage.

Many Internet service Providers offer SPAM filtering however, none (in my opinion) do a good job let alone a great job. Defiantly let them block some of the junk but do not rely on them as your sole defense.

One more quick thing, Microsoft Outlook includes a feature that could tell spammers, “Send me more junk mail.” The problem is in read receipts. If the spammer requests one, Outlook could send notice when you open the mail. That confirms to the spammer your address is good, which guarantees you more mail.

You can keep Outlook from responding. Open Outlook and click Tools then Options from the menu bar. On the Preferences tab, select E-Mail Options. In the E-Mail Options window, click Tracking Options. At the bottom of the Tracking Options window, select “Ask me before sending a response.” Now if you get a request for e-mail confirmation and you have not opened an e-mail or accidentally opened what turn out to be SPAM, you can simply select No and you are all the better off.

I hope this little journey to the dark side has been informative and assists you in protecting your account from the Evils that lurk about. Until we meet again, have a SPAM free week.