Every day advertisers are finding new ways to get into your e-mail Inbox. Most of them want to sell you something. When doing this door-to-door, it’s called soliciting. When doing this via e-mail, without a prior relationship with you (or without your permission), it’s called spam.
Why do they do it?
Why do these advertisers send out all of those messages?
They do it because it works.
If after sending out countless unsolicited e-mails, people didn’t buy anything… spammers would have stopped long ago and we would all be living much happier lives.
If advertisements were the only problem, it wouldn’t be quite as bad (although still very annoying). But, the truth is that some spam messages can transmit viruses, Trojans, Rootkits, Hijackers or Spyware (collectively known as Malware) on to your computer and cause problems.
How to Help Prevent Spam
Although there is no way to completely avoid spam, there a few things that you can do to stay off the major spam lists that are floating around on the web. The best piece of advice I can give you is NEVER EVER, EVER put your e-mail on a web site that will display your full e-mail address on the site. Signing up for newsletters, or using it to purchase something is fine… but, posting your e-mail address in a way that it continues to be displayed on the page is not okay.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid getting spam in the first place…
If you have a web site or home page, DON’T put your e-mail address on it… Instead, have your web programmer design a web form that LINKS to your e-mail.
If you must put your e-mail on your website, use the Hive Enkoder at http://hivelogic.com/enkoder. The Hive Enkoder will encrypt your e-mail in JaveScript to protect if from e-mail harvesting web bots.
Don’t put your e-mail address on any of your social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.
If you post to forums, don’t put your e-mail into the comment. Blog comments are okay too, as long as you don’t put your e-mail into the comments box.
If you already get some spam, don’t try to reply to the message. Some spammers make their living by sending out to random addresses. If the spammers actually get a reply, you have just verified that they have a live body at that address.
Also, don’t hit the “unsubscibe” link in the bottom of spam messages. It does the same thing that replying does. It gives the spammers more incentive to e-mail you, and sell your address to others who will overwhelm your Inbox with advertisements.
If you already get a lot of spam, there is not much you can do to stop it. You can, however, filter it. Filtering e-mail means that you are categorizing the e-mail, much like you would your own post office mail…
“Bill… Bill… Junk Mail… Letter from Aunt Maggie… Bill… Junk Mail…”
Where does the junk mail go? In the garbage, of course. The same will apply for e-mail. You are going to want to toss that spam and keep your Inbox clean!
The only problem is, spammers can be tricky. Sometimes spam can look like a legitimate e-mail… and then sometimes, a real e-mail can look like spam. So, you don’t want a spam filter that is goign to just delete anything that it “thinks” is spam. You are going to want it set off to the side, in another folder… just in case.
Any good spam filter will do this. Even the built in Outlook spam filter has a very rudimentary detection system that filters spam into another folder, down below your Inbox. But, the built in spam filter isn’t very good. It doesn’t detect and remove nearly enough spam messages to be effective.
And, THAT is the hardest part about picking out a spam filtering application. Finding one that is accurate, without catching too much legitimate e-mail is very challenging.
There are 4 things to look for when picking out the best spam filter for your computer.
What are these 4 things?
- The best spam filter blocks e-mail that is known to be spam – Many companies have already created a list of known spam. It is usually updated constantly and rapidly. A good spam filter will use this information to keep your Inbox safe and clean.
- The best spam filter will block “sporn” – All good programs allow you to block a high percentage of spam pornography – called “sporn”. Some will also filter out “adult” content e-mails or block adult oriented images. Some even have picture analysis and can detect and delete pornographic pictures before you see them.
- The best spam filter allows you to LABEL what you think is spam or not spam – YOU, and not the spam filter, should be the ultimate judge of what is spam and what is not. When you have absolutely no control over what you see and what gets tossed out, you could be missing a very important e-mail from a friend, family member, or co-worker.
- The best spam filter has a self-learning system – Great spam filters will be able to keep the pace with changes in the shady world of spamming. It will be able to adjust its perception of what spam is and is not, and raise or lower the bar when deemed appropriate.
Now that we know what the best spam filters will have, let’s move on to what we recommend here in our office.
Personally, I’ve used a lot spam filters. I still have my very first Hotmail account, so over the course of 13+ years, I’ve gotton onto a lot of spammers’ lists. That Hotmail Inbox is so overwhelmed with spam, that I HAVE to have something to help weed out the spam.
Because I’ve used a lot of spam filters, I know the best from the mediocre. And, when I find a good piece of software that excels at what it does, I don’t hesitate to preach about it to anyone who will listen. This is what I recommend to anyone who is ready to take back their Inboxes…
SPAMFighter is the way to go.
It works by using a very unique principle to reduce spam. SPAMFighter’s claim is that it will reduce spam by over 90%. This is actually better than what most spam filters actually rate, without getting a lot of good e-mails getting caught in the wide net.
I’ve been using SPAMFighter for years, and 90% is pretty accurate. Basically, if you get 10 spam messages per day, you might see 1 slip through… maybe two on an off day. If you get 100 spam messages per day, you will probably see around 10 or so slip through the cracks.
How does it work?
You see, when you download SPAMFighter, you join an online “community” of other SPAMFighter users. You never see these people. You never talk to them. You don’t even know who they are. But, they help you identify and flag suspected spam messages.
Here’s an example: Say that Larry, Moe, Curly, and YOU were all using SPAMFighter.
If a spammer sends out roughly the same message to 100,000 people, chances are good that Larry, Moe, Curly and you are among that list of 100,000 people.
Larry might get the message and flag it as spam. Moe gets the message second and flags it as spam. Curly gets the message third and flags it as spam. At that point the SPAMFighter system would kick in and say, “OK. These three users of the Spam Fighter community flagged this message as spam, so it must really be spam.” So, when you open your Inbox, you will never see the message, because the SPAMFighter system blocked it, based on other people’s opinions of what is considered spam.
This simple concept behind SPAMFighter is amazing, and very effective. I love it when programmers can find ways to harness the collective intelligence of millions of internet users and utilize it for the common good. It’s like letting the millions of Internet uses out there be the spam filter, each person contributing a tiny bit of the computing power.
If you want to give it a shot and see if it works for you, they have a fully functional trial of SPAMfighter Pro available for download. Although the company provides a completely FREE “standard” version, I recommend the SPAMFighter PRO Edition because it provides better protection and doesn’t attach a SPAMfighter advertisement to your outgoing messages (that’s my only gripe with this program). Besides, $29 is definitely a small price to pay for a cleaner inbox.
They have a Server Exchange Module, too. I use this on a few of my clients’ Windows Server 2003 boxes. I haven’t had a chance to test it on Server 2008 yet, but I probably will just any day.