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22nd 2003f September 2003
02:11:08 UTC
Now 16:47:59 UTC

  Fighting Spam Email

Date:September 12, 2003
Time:7:00 pm.
Place:WEA, 223 Angas Street, ADELAIDE
Presenter:Cliff Hignett and other SAMG members

In recent times, you have probably seen an increase in the amount of "junk mail" which shows up in your email box. This "spam" ranges from the latest commercial offerings through to porn sites trying to attract your attention. The September meeting discussed some of the methods members have found to fight this irritating problem.

Andrew Braund led off the topic with a run down on SPAM management software, Cliff Hignett then continued the discussion. Various programs are available that are designed to assist you with filtering the unwanted e-mail before it is downloaded from your Mail host, or with filtering it after you have downloaded it to your PC. This can be a slow process if you have a slow modem connection. An alternative is to use Web Mail to view and delete the unwanted mail without downloading the full message.

Some program types include :-

MAIL WASHER allows you to preview email or send it to a blacklist. The PRO version includes a list of known SPAM sender addresses and deletes e-mail from these sources before downloading. It also allows you to setup blacklists of senders or keywords used in the subject field. The basic version is free to download. Some ISP's provide Mail Washer (Picknowl and Chariot).

Another freebie is K9 - it tags incoming mail as "SPAM". It allows you to do a word search and manually tag e-mail as Spam, and remembers for next time. It seems to learn reasonably well. You must download the email first, and it appears to use about 20Meg of memory - maybe a problem on older machines.

SPAM ASSASIN is a step up, with a background in Unix, and is coded in Perl. It is very effective in parsing text for keyword matches. When run under Windows, the e-mail is downloaded first and the software looks at headers and the text body. Some ISP's have it setup so you never see the majority of SPAM. It also uses blacklists you manage or can download lists to use. An adjustable rating is applied to the e-mail by a set of rules, with adjustable thresholds, or can be set to react to specific countries of origin. To use, download, install, set POP Mail Server details, set your e-mail software not to go to the Mail Server but to use "localhost". The software gets the email and processes it first before sending it to your local mail software. Spam e-mail has inserted at the front of the subject line "****SPAM****". Then set your e-mail software to send this type of email direct to the junk bin automatically. It is best run on a Mail Server on a network.

Alternative software for mail and Internet access may be considered such as Netscape 4.7 which was suggested as easily allowing you to redefine where your email is stored via command line parameters.

Spamtrap.net.au provides a list of Spam messages for a small annual fee (about $30) which can be used to update your software Spam filter.

Disposable e-mail addresses via www.emailalias.com or www.spamex.com for under $20 per year may be useful - this allows you to readily change your e-mail address when 'discovered' by SPAMmers.

Other options require a list of approved e-mail senders to be managed - inconvenient - called a whitelist.

Problem - how much SPAM still gets through, and how much good e-mail gets blocked. The best SPAM traps are based on keyword matches.

One other note is to consider the e-mail address itself - why do some seem to get picked up and others don't - is it related to the character string used ?

For additional reading you are directed to the September 2003 - PCUSER where SPAM Blockers and Firewalls are discussed, and there is a free version of ELLER (another SPAM program) on CD.

With SPAM now reportedly accounting for half of all global Internet e-mail, some ISP's are now providing network-based SPAM filtering and virus protection software with customers provided with the option to tick a box and download programs then let their ISP do all the work back in their network. A charge of only a couple of dollars per month applies for each of the SPAM filters and Anti-virus filters, with no need to load updates for the anti-SPAM and anti-Virus software. (Cost is actually $2-50 each product per month with BigPond.)

Colin Huckel


Cliff also described a method he uses to redirect his websites. Domains are registered with Melborurne IT (or other) with the DNS server nominated as one of the free redirect services such as mydomain.com. The redirect service then handles requests for web pages for your domain using various redirection methods. This results in a request to http://www.mycoolhobbie.com.au going to a URL on your free web space provided by your ISP such as http://picknowl.com.au/jbloggs/mycoolhobbie. Careful management of the 5 Megs or so of web space provided by your ISP can result in it being divided up into separate web sites corresponding to your domains, with content under each directory. This can be handy of you are involved with several interest groups and wish to provide them with a cheap simple web presence. Note that some ISP's may not allow this especially for commercial sites so YMMV (your mileage may vary). Depending upon how you set it up, it sometimes relies on frames support in the client browser or exposes the real URL (http://picknowl.com.au/jbloggs/mycoolhobbie) which may not be what you want.

Andrew Braund