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Sunday, May 25, 2008

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Fighting Spam

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How?

1. Pretend you don't exist

Goal No 1 of spammers is to get you to read their email. If they think you don't read it - or don't even receive it - they may not sell or pass your email address on to other spammers. That is why you should never respond to a spam message. If you do, your email address is confirmed and you will cement your place on dozens of other spam senders' lists.

Not only should you not respond to a spam message, you shouldn't even look at one. That's because many spam messages contain sometimes invisible graphics - known as "beacons" - that signal to the spammer that your email address is valid. All you have to do is open or preview a message containing a beacon for your email address to be identified as active.

Beacons can only work, however, if you email program is set up to show all embedded graphics. The latest versions of Outlook and other popular email programs come with graphics turned off by default. If you email program displays graphics in messages, you can probably turn them off by looking at the Options menu, usually under Security.

2. Enlist a spam filter

Any good email program comes with a basic spam filter built in. Use it. Outlook 2003 and 2007's spam filter has three levels of spam protection. Likewise, Mozilla's Thunderbird has spam catching built in.

However, note that the higher levels of protection with these free spam filters are likely to tag some legitimate messages as spam, so you'll need to monitor the filtering when you first start using it.

Also, check the website of the makers of these email programs regularly for updates to the spam filters. Updated filters improve the ability of your email program to catch spam and leave legitimate email messages alone.

Fee-based filters are worth a look for those who find free filters insufficient. Cloudmark Desktop (www.cloudmark.com/desktop/) is effective and has a loyal following. It's available on a free 15-day trial; thereafter, the fee is US$40 ($54) per year. CA Anti-Spam (http://www.qurb.com/), formerly called Qurb, is another option, although it tends to be too aggressive at times, requiring you occasionally to fish out legitimate messages from among those it has sequestered as spam.

3. Use gmail

Search is not the only thing that Google is good at. The Internet giant's free Gmail email service (http://mail.google.com/) comes with the best spam filtering currently available.

One of the nicest things about Gmail is that you don't have to abandon your favorite email program to use it. Gmail allows you to receive your email on its website or from within Outlook or another email program.

4. Guard your email address

Don't make it easy for spammers to find your email address. First, don't use the same email address for everything. Give your main email address only to friends, colleagues and trusted business partners. Create and use a separate address for everything else.

Next, be careful when posting your email address online. When you do, disguise it so that it's not instantly recognisable as an email address to automated email harvesters. Instead of me@myhost.com, for instance, type "me AT myhost DOT com". The latter is easily understandable by a human but will be passed over by a spammer's email retrieval bot.

Source: TODAY, 23 May 2008 [todayonline.com]

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