There are two kinds of plagues that haunt email users. Spam and phishing. If you’re smart, you can avoid phishing scams. If you have multiple email accounts then how do you avoid spam? Both are a blight on humanity, but spam can be avoided, managed, and almost eliminated. Here’s how…
If you’ve been on the internet very long then chances are good you’ve been hit with the equivalent of a black plague in your email inbox. Phishing scams and spam. Junk mail. Wikipedia on phishing scams:
Phishing is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. PayPal, eBay and online banks are common targets. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail or instant messaging, and often directs users to enter details at a website, although phone contact has also been used.
Those who fall prey to phishing scams are usually the innocent, inexperienced, elderly; those who just don’t know any better. Phishing scams are on the increase so it’s apparent that it works. Spam? That’s a slightly different story. Wikipedia on spam:
Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam and junk fax transmissions.
Spam is cheap to create, cheap to send, and problematic to eradicate.
Common sense may not stop the spam of phishing attacks, but it will help reduce the potential for fraud. For email spam there are a number of choices, though the masses of Mac users may stick to one of three preferred solutions.
Apple’s Mail has a built in junk mail filter:
When you first start using Mail, the junk mail feature goes through a training period. Messages that Mail thinks is junk appear in brown text in your Inbox. If Mail marks something as “junk” that isn’t, click the Not Junk button to help train Mail.
Simple enough, though I’ve had less success with Apple’s Junk Mail than with Microsoft’s Entourage email filter.
What works best for me in both Apple’s Mail and Microsoft’s Entourage is a very slick utility called SpamSieve.
SpamSieve gives you back your inbox by bringing powerful Bayesian spam filtering to Mac e-mail clients. It’s quick and easy to control SpamSieve from within your mail client, and you can customize how it interacts with the rest of your message sorting rules. Other spam filters get worse over time as spammers adapt to their rules; SpamSieve actually gets better over time as it adapts to your mail.
In short, SpamSieve intercepts your email, scans it, runs it through various filters which learn what’s good and what’s not, then routes the email appropriately—spam where you want it to go, good email to the right inbox.
That’s the basic nuts and bolts view.
Powerful Bayesian spam filtering results in high accuracy and almost no false positives. It adapts to the mail that you receive to get even better with time. Some other e-mail clients include Bayesian filters, but SpamSieve is more accurate.
Strong words, but that’s been my experience. At the height of email spam a couple of years ago I was receiving over 250 spam messages a day. That’s the penalty for having too many email accounts, some of which are years old.
SpamSieve cut that down to less than a dozen a day, all nicely isolated in a Spam folder.
The nitty gritty of SpamSieve includes full integration with Apple’s Address Book, and Entourage’s address book, so it matches incoming mail to what you would consider a ‘good list.’
Automatically maintains a whitelist to guarantee that messages from particular senders or mailing lists are never marked as spam, without cluttering your address book with these addresses.
Email is pretty much black and white. The messages you want go into the white corner, those you don’t into the black corner, so SpamSieve keeps a whitelist and a blacklist.
Many spammers encode the contents of their messages so that filters cannot see the incriminating words they contain. SpamSieve can decode and look inside these messages. Optionally it can mark them all as spam, on the theory that legitimate senders do not try to obscure their messages.
I’ve had a Yahoo! email account since shortly after they launched free email back in the last century. That’s my oldest living email address, just two months older than my family email address. Both get the same amount of email spam.
Why can’t Yahoo!, with all their technological prowess, stop spam? Why is it that an affordable, easy-to-install Mac utility can stop spam? Mostly.
The only thing really missing from SpamSieve is some sort of phishing alert. Granted, if an incoming message is flagged as spam, it is flagging it, segregating it, for a reason, phishing content or otherwise.
Still, I’d like to see a future version of SpamSieve that would differentiate regular obtrusive spam from phishing attempt spam, if anything, just to further educate users.
Got a spam problem? How do you handle it?