Chris Croft's Personal Blog

September 2, 2011

Spam

Filed under: Computer tips — chriscroft @ 7:53 pm

90% of the world’s emails are spam – and I reckon 90% of the ones I get are.

When I first got my NTL email address (now long gone) it started getting spam before I had ever used it, so it is clear that either the spammers buy the email addresses from the providers (surely not?) or they just target every possible name. Someone told me that you should have a number somewhere in your email address to make it harder for them to guess, for example spell cr0ft with a zero in the middle. But why should I have a messy email address because of the spammers?

Anyway, if you buy things from the internet, or have a website with your email address on it, they are going to find you soon enough. And if you ever reply to “unsubscribe” from spam then they know you exist and they will send you ten times more. By the way, reputable companies (and me) do indeed let you unsubscribe. You can tell by looking at whether the web address of the unsubscribe link is full of numbers etc or whether it is a genuine part of the company’s website.

So, what to do about spam?

Well, I used to use Outlook’s filters (see Tools / Rules Wizard / Filter by header or content) but I used to spend ages putting in key words and each time another spam got through I would have to add more key words. Then a Christmas menu got filtered by my settings and I couldn’t work out why, and it turned out that the word Grapefruit contained the word rape so it got filtered – ridiculous! And don’t even start on Scunthorpe or Lightwater!

You can get all sorts of specialist spam filtering software, some free and some not, like Mail-washer, which works better than Outlook. Some of them have a list of “people who are OK” and each new person has to be added – 100% effective, but a bit of a hassle!

The other problem with using Outlook or any of the above is that you still have to download the spam before it gets filtered. Not too bad if you have a fast connection, but if you are using a blackberry or iPhone then it’s going to fill up with spam, at your expense, and the blackberry’s filtering software is pretty rudimentary.

So I’m now getting my spam filtered at the server, so I don’t even see it. When I have 5 emails, I really do have 5 proper emails.

It costs me £3/month, but I think it’s worth it. It uses a spam filtering engine called Black Spider and it is provided by a very helpful guy called Nigel, who is based in Newbury, and you can actually phone him up (01480-657888) and ask him things! Yes, a real person, who is actually there when you call! His web address is http://www.multiplex.co.uk , email at nigel@multiplex.co.uk , and the software he is using is http://www.mailcontroller.co.uk

Just going into Techie-World for a moment, the advantage is that they take it out of your in-box, filter out all the spam, and then put it back into the same in-box, so you don’t have to change any of your POP settings (where your computer goes to pick up your email). The only disadvantage is that they can’t filter hotmail , aol, or virgin etc, they can only filter domain names, so you need to own, like fredbloggs.co.uk and then they will filter fred@fredboggs.co.uk.

But in only costs about £3/year to have fredbloggs.co.uk and you can still keep your virgin / AOL/hotmail address and redirect everything from there to your fredbloggs mailbox. And they can’t take the email address away from you like virgin can…

You can buy domains at http://www.123-reg.co.uk – have a look and see if your name is still available! So for example chris.croft@virgin.net (soon to be discontinued unfortunately) still reaches me because it actually gets forwarded to chris@chriscr0fttraining.co.uk where it gets filtered, and then I check my spam-free mailbox either from my PC as normal, or from my palm / mobile / blackberry / iPhone / iPad. Or by going to http://www.mail2web.com from any computer anywhere (did you know you can do that with any email address, all you need is your password?).

So there you have it – everything you need to know about getting rid of spam. Buy a domain name (£3/year), and get Nigel to filter it for £3/month.

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