SPAM - How to get rid of it..

SPAM is unsolicited commercial email (and newsgroup/chatroom posting). In other words its those annoying emails you get about enlarging your penis or getting a mortgage for your dream house.. I'm sure you know what I mean!

SPAM hits us all, day after day in ever increasing amounts and there are many tools that claim to eliminate spam (and often these tools are promoted with spam!) but do they work? What is the best way to deal with the problem?

Well there are many things you can do and should do and not all involve buying programs or hiding under a rock! Here are a few tips..

1. The 'catchall' email alias - many people that have a domain name will have it configured to accept email on any address under their domain and forward that email to one mailbox. On a typical linux/sendmail server this would be setup like so..

@yourdomain.com yourmailbox

Now this is very handy as it allows you to use any email address without actually configuring it but at the same time it allows spammers to send emails to anything like [email protected] and you will get it which is not good!

So first get rid of that catchall address - ask your host to do it if you don't know how. Make sure you then setup all the email aliases that you do want to receive email on though such as [email protected] or whatever.

This simple change can dramatically reduce the spam you get!

2. Anti-spam programs that run on your PC can be very useful although you need to be careful with them. One I use is called MailWasher and you can get a free download from firetrust.com. If using mailwasher though, make sure you disable 'bouncing' as bouncing results in loads of extra emails being bounced all over the place when most spam is sent from fake addresses and often even from your own address! MailWasher can compare emails with the spamcop blacklist (and others) and automatically blacklist or delete emails for you which saves a load of time.

3. Server based anti-spam tools.. if you run your own server you may want to install MailScanner along with SpamAssassin. This combination will allow you to intercept spam on the server before you have to download it! Needless to say, this can save you loads of time and costly bandwidth. Its a bit tricky to install, depending on your server setup, but well worth it. You can also find a few hosts and isp's that will provide this system pre-installed and configured so shop around.

Another handy addition to your server-side arsenal is a virus scanner and MailScanner can also run a number of virus scanners on all your mail and automatically remove anything nasty before you download it.

4. Never provide your main email address in any web based registration. Use a free email address provided by any of the many webmail services such as yahoo or hotmail, so that spam that originates from unscrupulous web site operators will go there and not fill up your main mailbox!

Another trick you can do is to use a unique identifier for each registration you submit.. for example, if you signup for something under blahwidgets.com you could enter your email there as [email protected] - make sure you add this alias to your mail config otherwise you wont get the confirmation email! This method allows you to easily see who has traded your email or sent you spam and you can simply delete the alias when you no longer want to use it.

No anti-spam system is perfect, however a combination of methods can dramatically reduce the time you spend sorting your email - I personally dropped from 2000+ spams/day to less than 100 and deleting those last few with mailwasher takes just a few minutes.