How can I reduce spam in my inbox?

(Spam is also known as unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE))

 


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The first item to look at, has your email address been harvested?

 

Refer to this page which discusses how people get your email address.

 

Stop handing out your email address with every online survey you fill in. Make sure you do not have any Malware on your workstation. Confirm your email address is not listed on any website. (If you need it to be listed, consider using terms like "myname [at] domain [dot] com" so people can still work out your email address or alternatively consider attaching it to the site as an image file containing text).

 

You will fall into either of two categories.

 

 

 


No server

 

You are relying on your

  • Internet provider

  • Email program

  • Antivirus

  • other software application specific to Spam filtering

  • External services (Usually expensive)

 

Many internet providers offer Spam filtering when you sign up. You might like to look into on of these services.

 

If you are using an email client like Outlook 2003/2007 (Office 2003/2007) you have a junk email feature. This updates descriptions of spam from Microsoft when you auto update your system with patches. Other programs like Outlook XP or Outlook Express do not have such junk features. The best you can do is use email rules. These get out of hand quickly as Spam subjects and sender names frequently change.

 

Most antivirus now plugs into Email systems and check both what you are sending and what you are receiving. This allows you to know you do not have a Malware sending out emails using your email client and helps reduce incoming spam. Trend Micro Internet Security is one such great product.

 

There are third party solutions like Mail washer , Spam Assassin and many more. Here is a link to a number of such products.

 

There are also internet based solutions like message labs and hardware/firewall devices. These tend to cost more than home or Soho Users can afford.

 

Note: These suggestions are general in nature and only deal with Microsoft Desktop Operating Systems. If you run a Linux, Macintosh, BEOS, Palm or other software, I have not included solutions for you here.

 

 

 


Server based

 

In a server based solution you will either rely on the server to reduce spam or the desktop solution state above.

 

If you have Linux servers, you will need to seek advice from an alternative source. The only experience I have with Linux is Sendmail and custom Perl Scripts.

 

If you have a Novell, OS/2, Bayan, SCO, HP-UX or AS400 solution, you need to speak with your IT support team for advice.

 

Microsoft based servers

 

If you are running NT4 or earlier version, I can  not give you advice. There is nothing I know of that will help you reduce spam. This includes Exchange 5 and 5.5.

 

If you are running Windows 2003 server with the built in IIS web server pop/SMTP email or an email package alternative to Microsoft Exchange (Lotus notes, GroupWise etc) I have not provided a solution for you here.

 

Microsoft Exchange Based servers

 

If you are running Exchange 2000 on Windows 2000 Server with your MX pointed to the server (and not bounced to a pop account on your ISP) you will need to rely on your Antivirus

 

Most antivirus now plugs either into your Email system or clients client software and will check both what you are sending and what you are receiving. This allows you to know you do not have a Malware sending out emails using your email client and helps reduce incoming spam. Trend Micro Internet Security is one such great product. The Trend Micro and Symantec enterprise software will do this for you.

 

There are third party solutions like Mail washer , Spam Assassin and many more.

 

There are also internet based solutions like message labs and hardware/firewall devices.

 

You will get limited benefit by upgrading the users workstations to Outlook 2003/2007 and using it's junk email filters.

 

If you are running Exchange 2003 on Windows 2000 Server with your MX pointed to the server (and not bounced to a pop account on your ISP) you have many options. You have the possible solutions as listed above (antivirus, third party ISP solutions etc) and in addition, solutions built into the email system.

 

Upgrade your Exchange 2003 to Service Pack 2. You now have

  • Tar pitting

  • Intelligent mail filter

  • Recipient filtering

  • Sender ID

  • Other

Tar pitting is the practice of deliberately inserting a delay into certain SMTP communications that are associated with spam or with other unwanted traffic. To be effective, these kinds of spam communications typically rely on generating a high volume of traffic. By slowing an SMTP conversation, you can dramatically reduce the rate at which automated spam can be sent or at which a dictionary attack can be conducted. Legitimate traffic may also be slowed by tar pitting. Eventually the spammer will need to go elsewhere if they want to get their spam distributed.

 

Sender ID Exchange Server 2003 SP2 delivers Sender ID filtering technology, which primarily targets forgery of e-mail addresses. The elimination of spoofed mail will immediately cause a significant reduction of mail traffic into your Exchange server. Enabling the Sender ID filter can allow you to achieve approximately 10 percent net increase in spam capture before mail is transmitted to Exchange Intelligent Message Filter for additional anti-spam processing. Stopping spoofed mail at the gateway is important because the reduction of mail traffic into the Exchange organization reduces bandwidth consumption and eliminates the overhead of processing these messages in the internal mail infrastructure.

Intelligent Message Filter which now includes Microsoft SmartScreen technology. Previously, Intelligent Message Filter was available as an add-in tool only. Intelligent Message Filter contains updated spam characteristics that improve its ability to block spam. Intelligent Message Filter also provides anti-phishing protection.

Connection filtering was introduced in Exchange Server 2003, but it worked from the network perimeter only. Because most servers running Exchange Server 2003 are positioned behind the network perimeter, the Connection filtering functionality was not possible. Exchange Server 2003 SP2 changes all this by enabling deployment of connection filtering not only at the network perimeter, but behind it too. Now you can take full advantage of message hygiene and anti-spam enhancements, regardless of where your Exchange server is deployed.

 

The other items you can configure are things like limit the amount of sessions from each email sending IP address, limit the number of recipients per email, limit the attachments (or remove them as in SBS 2003).

 

Exchange 2003 also works with Outlook 2003/2007 and enhances the junk email filter.

 

On top of this, an email solution from Trend Micro like IMSS and Scanmail reduces spam even further.

 

 

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To keep up to date you can refer to my blog

 

If you are viewing this page then these specific other pages in this series might be of interest to you:

  • Tools to remove Malware and Viruses
  • Tools to remove Malware etc but still under review by me
  • A page dedicated to helping you get the information needed to remove Malware
  • Spybot installation steps
  • How to perform an online Housecall Virus scan
  • What is Malware ?
  • Why are people using my email address?
  • How did someone steal my Email address?
  • Why is my email being blocked ?
  • How can I reduce spam ?
  • Why did I get infected ?
  • How to Handle Spam!
  • Why do I get all these bounce backs to my email address ?
  • What is a Drive-By Malware attack ?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

        

     

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