A Massive Amount of Spam and a Spam Filter for the Masses

Robert HoldemanInternet Safety, Misc., Shameless Self Promotion

With about 60% to 70% of the email addressed to most Inboxes today labeled as spam, in this digital world a good spam filter is a must have. But, what makes a good spam filter? Is there really more spam being sent lately or is it my imagination? Does it really matter if I’m getting more spam if I just delete it?

Let’s take those questions in reverse order…

What’s the big deal, since I just delete any spam that comes my way? With most ISP hosted email accounts and those hosted on your own exchange server, there’s a limited amount of space allotted to each account. This means that as your Inbox fills up, your ability to receive email might be temporarily suspended until you make room by deleting some. If an email client, like Outlook, has not been configured to delete emails from the email server after downloading, even the messages you delete will remain on the mail server. If you get email on your android phone and do not have a filter, spam will fill up your phone’s storage space even faster. You may be able to increase your allotment of disk space on your email server, but how much is enough and how much will you pay for it?

Has there really been an increase in spam or is it just me? It’s not imagination. According to Cisco, whose routers and other networking devices are the world’s most prolific, spam is at its highest level since late 2010. In the six months from January 2013 to June 2103 spam was estimated at 50 to 100 billion (yes, with a “b”) messages per month. As of March 2014 spam volume was estimated at 200 billion per month.

So, what makes a good spam filter? Almost any spam filter will quarantine suspected email and provide a way to whitelist your approved senders and blacklist your most pesky offenders. It should be relatively easy to add an address to your whitelist and probably a bit more involved to add to the blacklist. (Best practices say that you should only add addresses to your blacklist when they manage to get through your filter. If the filter quarantines them, don’t bother filling up your blacklist.) You should also have some controls over the aggressiveness of the filter so you can adjust as needed.

Spam should be filtered before it gets to your mail server. A good spam filter will block messages that are from known spammers and not even allow them into quarantine. It will also let you adjust the settings for this option.

No spam filter is perfect, but the best of them are focused on spam and nothing else. They keep up-to-the-minute track of the latest spam practices as well as long-term trends, to maximize capture and minimize false-positives.

And how easy is it to manage? A good spam filter will provide a simple interface for managing mail day-to-day and the better ones will send one or more automated messages to remind you to check your quarantined email.

Here’s a link to more info about a really good spam filter.