Email — we love to get personal email. We need to get our business email. Spam filtering is the answer. With anti-spam software, we cak block spam from getting into our inboxes.
Back in the early 1990’s, I remember checking my email one morning and finding a really neat one — some creative computer science student from Hawaii had sent me his résumé. It took me a little while to figure out what had happened.
This was my first-ever piece of spam. This kid had sent his résumé to everyone who had posted a message to any of the Usenet comp.sys.ibmpc newsgroups. Even after I knew what he did, I thought it was cool. Not too long after that, though, was the start of the most prolific Usenet spam — the "green card lottery" spam.
Fast forward to 2005: I now receive about 250-300 emails per day, and it seems like 50% of them must be spam. Our ISPs can help, but, as users, we also have ways to control this. We can run our own anti-spam software — our own spam filter
First, never open or "preview" the junk email (with Outlook and Outlook Express, the "preview pane" actually opens the email in an embedded Internet Explorer window, which is probably one of the worst things you could do from a security point of view.)
Second, never, ever, click on the link in the spam email if you do open it.
Third, never, ever, ever buy the product advertised through spam.
Spammers send millions of emails, hoping that even a tiny percentage of recipients will buy through their advertisement. If people refuse to buy the products advertised with spam, then the spammers will give up!
What else can you do? One control system you can use is a program called Mailwasher Pro. With Mailwasher Pro, you preview the sender and subject of emails before you actually download the emails from your ISP. Then, you can delete the junk emails before they are sent to you. The power of Mailwasher Pro, though, is that Mailwasher can bounce the email as if your email address did not exist. If you are lucky, your bounces cause the bad guys to take you off their list. Mailwasher Pro is available for Windows XP/2000/ME/98, Mac OS/X and multiple Linux distributions. Mailwasher is also available in a reduced-function freeware version, but I believe that several of the "Pro-only" functions are crucial to its effective use.
Spam Bully is another anti-spam program with some of the same features, and which works with Outlook and Outlook Express. Spam Bully uses several functions to decide which emails to allow or disallow: a Bayesian Spam Filter, an Allow/Block List, a Punish/Bounce/Report/Challenge system and Auto-Delete. Spam Bully can even forward emails to your cell phone.
Microsoft Outlook has its own "junk filter" system built in; however, I have heard mixed reports on its effectiveness. Some other email programs also have built-in junk filters. Eudora, the email program I use, similarly has its own Junk filter.
My primary spam filter is a free email "classification program" called PopFile, that handles spam/junk email as well as classifying any other type of email you want to identify — such as “work,” “computer tips,” and “hobby.” PopFile works in conjunction with “rules” that you create in Outlook & Outlook Express, also known as “filters” in other programs like Eudora, to segregate spam from the good stuff.
I have successfully used PopFile, which works with emails as they arrive at my computer, with Mailwasher Pro to make a very effective anti-spam combination. Mailwasher Pro handles spam while it is still at your mailserver. The Pro version has many good features not available in the freeware version, such as safe “preview window” and the ability to “learn” based on what you tell it to do with emails.
By default, PopFile will add "[spam]" to the beginning of the subject line of a message that it thinks is spam. Then, you can use the rules/filters to say "if the subject contains [spam], put this email in the junk folder." After training — you have to train any anti-spam system to tell it what _you_ think is spam — PopFile on my computer has averaged 99.45% accuracy since I reset the statistics in May, 2004 — that’s on over 165,000 emails!