The Daily Ping

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November 18th, 2003

Spam Check!

A while back, Ryan provided a spam update. Before that, he decided to swing with us. Nevertheless, spam remains a very serious issue. Serious!

My question to you is, how much of this crap are you getting?

I’m fortunate enough to have SpamAssassin (God’s gift to email) thanks to my webhost, but there are still a good 80-100 messages of junk I receive daily. On weekends, it’s even more. I think, on average, 2-3 fall through SpamAssassin’s cracks – upsetting my otherwise pristine inbox.

Isn’t it sad, though, that there’s so much of it out there and so little has been done about it?

Posted in Technology

FROM: Marcus Mackey
DATE: Tuesday November 18, 2003 -- 7:12:34 am
Mmmmm... spam ::drool::

Oh wait, you meant the email variety. ;)

Honestly... I get so much spam that I'm almost positive that I lose pertinent email in the mix. You see, I set my email program of choice (Entourage) to filter the spam to the trash heap. The problem is... in typical MS fashion, they give you a range of settings that is either too weak, or too strong, but nothing "just right". I usually just opt for "too strong" and then sift through the Deleted Items folder to see if there's anything good in there. The problem is, it's not really achieving anything, and basically has me looking through the equivelant of 2 in-boxes.


Oh well, maybe one of these days when I can run OS X consistently, I'll just run and hope I can train it to do better or find an application to work with it than can sift through the stuff mail fails to catch and stop. I at least fooled some of it when I filtered a gamut of popularly used spam email topics and products so that I could use a less-strong setting, but it's still a hassle when the occasional pseudo-spam email (according to Entourage) from a real person that is important slips through the cracks and ends up in the deleted mail column. A column that easily tops 160+ emails a day (mostly to my old address, which when the forwarding on that ends, hopefully a good lot of the spam will too).

Hotmail filtering isn't much better... but then again, what good is Hotmail for anyhow? :)

FROM: Chris [E-Mail]
DATE: Tuesday November 18, 2003 -- 8:25:04 am
My webhost also provides SA - I send the tagged spam straight to /dev/null/ without even looking at it. Am I missing an occasional good email? Yeah, probably. The alternative is to wade through 250+ viagra and male enhancement ads every day. I'd rather lose an occasional good email.

Has anybody thought about going with one of the challenge-response systems?

FROM: Dave Walls [E-Mail]
DATE: Tuesday November 18, 2003 -- 9:24:29 am
I rarely get any spam at all at my main address..Here's my tips: Keep a separate account for signing up for websites, registering, ordering stuff etc. I keep a Hotmail account for just such a purpose. That account gets hit with spam fairly well. Also, I avoid posting my address in form anywhere. That seems to be the real killer. Even if it's only the target of a link, that seems to be enough for spammers to get a hold of.

Another great tool is the Mailinator website. That comes in handy for those one-time website visits.

FROM: Greg
DATE: Tuesday November 18, 2003 -- 9:42:00 am
Dave's got the right idea. I use one account to surf and get bombarded with spam. That includes spam that uses "dailyping" in the subject line. It's almost fun to see some of the subject lines and dumb offers. All this while my other e-mail address remains spam free.

FROM: Ryan [E-Mail]
DATE: Tuesday November 18, 2003 -- 10:13:43 am
Don't forget who told you about Mailinator! :)

My current set-up for my main e-mail address is as follows:

E-mail comes in and is redirected to Spamcop. Spamcop filters the e-mail against its blacklists as well as SpamAssassin set at 8.0 or above. The rest is forwarded to a super-secret POP mailbox back on my web server, where it's run through SpamAssassin again. Anything 6.0 or higher is flagged.

Then, when I grab my POP mail, it's run through POPFile. At that point, any mail that either POPFile or SpamAssassin tags as spam is dumped to a "probably spam" folder. The rest goes to my inbox.

How effective is all that nonsense? Very. Spamcop captures an average of 465 per day (with virtually no legit mail getting stopped). POPFile has an accuracy of better than 99% on the remaining mail. So, basically, only a few spam a week (out of a few thousand) make it to my inbox and I only have to deal with about a dozen a day that get sent to my "Probably Spam" folder.

When Spamcop went down for a weekend because of DNS issues and I had to actually download all the spam I was getting, I got to the point where I had my mail program mark it "read" before it dumped it into my "Probably Spam" folder.

I've also taken the added step of switching to web-based e-mail forms for almost all my domains. That's been the single most effective anti-spam deterrent since it doesn't give spammers an address to scrape.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday November 18, 2003 -- 10:47:53 am
My stuff goes through SA, and then Apple Mail generally cleans up any remaining barnacles. Mail doesn't have the most sophisticated junk mail filters, but as a second net after SA it works quite well.

Ryan: damn, 465 a day?

Also, I do use various names at my domain to track who's sending what where. I actually had to change the address I used for domain registrations because NetSol sold my address down the river (jerks.)

FROM: Chris
DATE: Tuesday November 18, 2003 -- 11:35:04 am
My problem is that I've owned my domain since 1998. Back then spam wasn't much of an issue so I left the address all over the place. Over the years, it has made it onto every spam list on the planet. I am considering setting up a new super secret address on my domain and only using it for personal correspondence, while the chris@ address just becomes my throwaway address.

FROM: Ryan [E-Mail]
DATE: Tuesday November 18, 2003 -- 11:56:32 am
Ryan: damn, 465 a day?

Yeah, it's really escalated. Just a few months back it was hovering around 200.

Chris -- I've had the same problem. When I first bought my domain in 1997 I signed it up on a free-for-all links page (when it was still ok to do so!) and I think that set the ball rolling. That and having my address plastered on the bottom of each page.

FROM: qwik
DATE: Wednesday November 19, 2003 -- 9:42:02 pm
I use SPAMCOP.. then on my local desktop I have SPAM EATER PRO and then MATADOR for OUTLOOK

FROM: Paul
DATE: Wednesday February 4, 2004 -- 9:09:24 pm
I've been mostly out of email contact for the past two days, and I found I had 280 spam and virus messages. That's pretty nice, eh?

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