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Stopping Spam

Stopping spam is no mean task. Everyone's mailbox seems to get those unwanted, nasty, distasteful and sometimes virus carrying emails. Many of these emails have an "unsubscribe" link, but instead of reducing unwanted emails, they only seem to increase. Marking them as spam doesn't work, reporting doesn't seem to work. So what do you do for stopping spam? This article addresses some of the steps you can take for stopping spam.

What is spam?

Spam is unwanted e-mail. It could contain an ad for a product or ask for a vote on a proposition. Basically, if you didn't sign up for a mailing list or leave your email address, then it's spam. The more malicious form of spam can even contain viruses and spyware.

How can you stop spam?

Spam filtering software:

The best technology currently available to attempt to stop spam is spam filtering software. The simplest filters use keywords in the subject line to attempt to identify and delete spam. These filters are easy to sidestep by simply spelling words differently. It has become more and more difficult for these filters to keep up. Also, simple filters are most likely to block "real" e-mail that you do want to receive. For example, if your friend sends you her favorite recipe for baked chicken breasts, the filter blocks the e-mail because of the word "breasts."

More advanced filters, known as Bayesian filters and heuristic filters, try to take this simple approach quite a bit further to identify spam based on word patterns or word frequency. But there are still ways to get around them. Large ISPs tried blocking multiple e-mails with the same subject line or message body. This had the unwanted side-effect of blocking e-mail newsletters, so ISPs made "white lists" to identify legitimate newsletter senders. Then spammers sidestepped the issue by inserting different random characters into each subject line and message body.

Spam IP Address Lists:

There are quite a few organizations that publish lists of IP addresses that are used by spammers. Any large spammer will have a fleet of server machines pumping out spam messages, and each server machine has its own IP address. Once spam is detected from an IP address, that IP address is put in a list. Companies that host e-mail accounts can look at the sending IP address of every e-mail and filter out those that appear in one of these lists. Dedicated spammers, however, will change their IP address frequently.

Anti-spam legislation

Another front in the war against spam is legislation. For example, it has been suggested that the U.S. government set up a national "do not spam" list identical to the national "do not call" list designed to block telemarketers. However, it is believed by most people that spammers would set up spam servers in foreign countries and actually use the "do not spam" list as a source of fresh e-mail addresses.

Opt-in Lists

Another solution would be an "opt-in" list. The opposite of the "do not spam" list, only those people who specifically request spam e-mail would get it. This solution would actually be a win for spammers though. Since you can sign up to receive the spam, it would essentially be legalized. The final option in banning spam is the elimination of e-mail as we know it. Many businesses are being forced to take this approach. Even the White House has been forced to follow this path. Today, if you want to send e-mail to the president of the United States, you do it by filling out an online form.
That may be what happens to all e-mail in the long run. The sheer amount of spam, combined with the present inability to control it, may become so bad that the traditional e-mail system we know today collapses and gets replaced either with forms or with a set of advanced, secure servers that put spammers out of business.

What can YOU do to stop spam?

There are some simple steps you can take to reduce if not eliminate spam and/or being hurt by it.

Early Warning Signals:

Sender: Do not click on emails unless they are absolutely from people known to you.

Time: Look at the time stamp of the email in addition to the email. Most spam, for some reason gets sent between midnight and 4 am. Would the sender of the email actually be mailing you at that time?

Links: Most malicious spam mails encourage you to open an attachment or click on a link. If you are not absolutely certain that it is legit, do not open the attachment or click the link. When in doubt, play safe.

Safeguard your privacy:

Do not post your email address in public forums. When you have to give your email address to someone online, try and give it creatively without actually giving the email address. For example: me "at" you "dot" com gets the message across without publishing your email address itself.

Report spam:

Even if you have done it in the past without a reduction in spam, you need to keep reporting spam.

Use spam blocking tools:

Although most email service providers have spam filtering services to safeguard your email, it doesn't hurt to use your own spam filtering tool on your computer.

Spam Blocking for Companies

In addition to all of the above, the best safeguard you can take is to work with a reliable email hosting provider. Sometimes, working with big brands isn't the best solution because they can be too big to care about your problems. Find an email hosting provider who cares about you as a customer and not just as a statistic adding to the bottom line.

Ballistic Domains offers a number of dedicated email hosting solutions with a “high value for money” promise. We also work to safeguard our customers' best interest. Talk to us about your email hosting requirements. While we can't promise a spam-free world, we will work to minimize it. Talk to us and be pleasantly surprised !

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