Protecting yourself from spam

Tips & Hints

Posted 24 October, 2003

A spammer’s conviction in California is welcome news, but isn’t going to stop the scourge. Despite the best efforts of governments, courts and the IT community, the War on Spam is going to be a long drawn out affair. You need to protect yourself from the onslaught.

Hide your address

The first thing is to stop spammers getting your address. Do not give it out lightly. Never put your address on web pages, or post it in Web forums and newsgroups. Spammers "harvest" addresses from these places.

If you have to give your real email address for a subscription or registration, make sure you select the option not to allow your address to be passed onto others. This may not always work, but reputable organisations won’t pass on your address.

Never respond

Even without posting your address, spammers can find it, often by guessing. They don’t know if the addresses they have are real or false, if you reply they know your address is a real one. You must never respond to spam, regardless of how offensive or silly.

Contact your ISP

If the spam becomes unacceptable or intolerable contact your Internet Provider. Most have some anti-spam service. There may be a monthly charge for the service.

External Filtering

If your ISP does not have a spam service, then you can arrange to have your email filtered by another organisation. Companies like Messagelabs, for corporates and Spamtrap, for home users, can provide this. There will be a small change to your mail setup.

Run your own filter

You can run a mail filter of your own. One of our favourites is Mailwasher which lets you review the mail before you fire it back to the lowlifes. If you do use it, make sure you send a few dollars to the author.

Configure your mail program

Most mail programs can be configured to automatically delete spam. Mail filters can be setup to automatically move mail containing certain words to the folders you nominate. Don’t be too aggressive as common words or part words can mean useful mail ends up in the bin with the spam.

Spam is a problem that isn’t going to go away soon. But you aren’t helpless, you can take steps to reduce the amount of rubbish that comes into your inbox. If we all do it, it may even discourage the spammers.

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