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E-mail Spam - Getting Worse!



5:12 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Firstly, apologies if this is in the wrong section!

Anyway, I (like everyone I suppose) have been getting spam for years and up till recently I'd probably get 2/3 a day, which is managable.

But since a couple of weeks ago I have been getting on average 65/70 spam e-mails and it's getting ridiculous! I have tried using the ISP's spam filter but I'm finding that some e-mails that I need are getting blocked, and most spam still get through anyway. So the only thing I can do is let all e-mails come through and delete all the messages which are spam.

I've been looking on Yahoo & Google for a solution but there's so many results and 'solutions' it's hard to know what is rubbish and what would actually work!

Does anyone know any software where you can add words to some sort of blacklist?

Or maybe someone could just recommend something which would reduce the large amounts of spam I'm getting?

I'm using Outlook Express with a POP3 e-mail account.

Thanks in advance!


5:26 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

SpamBayes [spambayes.sourceforge.net] works well for me. It works better in Outlook than in Outlook Express, however.

ThunderBird [mozilla.com] has built-in spam filtering that seems pretty good, with the added advantage of allowing you to read messages as plain-text instead of HTML, which provides extra security and protection.


5:36 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Yes it is an epidemic. I started using a Bayesian spam filter and it's been working very well. I'm on a mac so guess I can't recommend the one I use but just look for bayesian outlook express or something. Basically a Bayesian filter does all the dirty work of making a word blacklist, etc. except it's better than a blacklist. You train it at first telling it which messages you think are good and which you think are spam and it starts to recognize good and bad words but uses more complex logic to accept/reject emails than a simple blacklist. For the first couple of weeks I trolled the spam bin daily but now I don't really need to.

Future posters: as always, please keep specific commercial recommendations on the downlow or the post will be locked. There's a supporters forum for that now, see:
PC and Unix Software Usage [webmasterworld.com]


5:48 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

There may not be anything you can do. I think push has come to shove for spam.

Several articles out in the popular technical press on the problem: spam had been decreasing at a steady pace throughout 2006, until September or so. Somehow, spammers spontaneously realized that they could bypass spam filters by putting their spam in images.

Spam volume has now increased dramatically throughout the rest of the year.

To read the text in the images would require OCR, which few spam filters do, and is compute-intensive. It may not be practical to filter this new "image spam".

I think there are some things that can be done, but it will take a while for the anti-spam software authors to react.

The obvious thing is to simply junk any email containing a single, large image. Of course, then the spammers will turn to multiple, smaller images... Then the filters will have to use that as a trigger as well.

Maybe this will cure everyone of the disease of HTML mail. ;) (Because HTML mail will increasingly be likely to trigger a spam filter.)

The image spam typically includes an "etched" background (a background of fine broken lines) intended to foil OCR. I think this in itself can be used as a trigger for spam filters, at a lower cost than actually OCRing the characters.

2007 may be the year that most people just stop using email altogether. Or maybe it will be the year that that the industry finally wakes up and invents and gets behind a more rational alternative.

There certainly is opportunity. Put on your thinking caps, webmasters!


5:58 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

To read the text in the images would require OCR, which few spam filters do, and is compute-intensive. It may not be practical to filter this new "image spam".

Bayesian filters can still help though by giving messages with images a lower rank. If someone who's not in your address book is sending you images and the message already looks a little spammish (and does not hit many positive words like your name, your zip code, etc) then the thing will go in the spam bin. Not a complete solution of course but ...


7:56 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Do you know what the SOURCE of your spam is? That is, how did they get your address? Are they hitting you from a web form on your site, or did you post your email address on your website?

If the second is the case it may already be too late, but you can stop future email spiders. Use a solid contact form and processor with appropriate security methods to reduce form abuse. Not publishing your email address is a a very good idea, or at the very least use methods to disguise it.

If it's just incoming from who knows where, I've found the most effective method is to just create processing rules for the domains that the filters don't catch. Once a spammer hits my mailbox it's pretty certain that I'll never be interested in their messages. So anything that contains @spamboy.com I bounce or delete. Bounce is probably not well liked by your system admins because the offending spammer might bounce it right back. If in doubt, just use delete.

True, this takes a lot of initial maintenance but it works. I've gone from as much as several hundred per day (with spikes over a thousand!) to two or three a day.


2:18 am on Dec 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Dear wirral:

Trust me, I understand your grievances. I have two emails accounts both dated 10 years. So I have a very clear understanding of the epidemic.

Unfortunately, it's near impossible to avoid unsolicited email today without some type of mailbox filtering, particularly if you own any domain names (with their own MX records). But there are certainly techniques to reduce the likelihood of receiving SPAM before it has started.

Most importantly, do not ever publish your personal email address in any newsgroups, blogs, forums, etc. If you must do so, then choose a forwarding email address that is easily dispensable or else alter your real email address so that it cannot be scraped by mischievous robots.

If you operate your own Website, then I recommend using a Web-based contact form and, where possible, require prior user-registration as well. This way you at least have the ability to change where your emails are routed in the event any particular account is compromised by unsolicited email. Also use only email addresses that are moderately difficult to guess, but not an inconvenience to your correspondents. For example solicitors commonly target "admin", "anonymous", "sales", "webmaster", etc. as well as any variations of your real name.

The particularly paranoid, may go so far as to set up separate email accounts for different purposes. One possibility (if you have your own domain) is to classify all trusted and untrusted email separately. That is, set up one account for family, work, and friends and never divulge it publicly. Then setup different accounts for individual mailing lists, site registrations, newsgroups, etc. If for example, you register on an auction site, you would create an email account called "auction001" for that site, and have your mail host automatically route messages for "auction001" into a general Auction mailbox that is comprised of all auction-related messages. As soon as you receive any UCB email to "auction001", you the know that it was harvested specifically from that auction site, so it can now be discarded.



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