Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dealing with spam in your inbox

Spam is a problem that all companies face. You deal with it by having server spam filters and firewalls, personal computer filters and firewalls, and someone checking any filtered spam mail for good mail. The amount we get in our inbox will always fluctuate until spammers are identified, added to spam definitions, or they stop spamming. As long as there is money to be made, you can forget about them stopping.

You can also make sure to use personal email addresses when registering for online products, demos, and other stuff. Also make sure your work email address is not published (linkable) on any web pages or it will be scraped and sold to spammers.

One alternative method of dealing with spam is to use an online authentication method - where everyone needs to authenticate themselves before they can send mail to you. You could add a list of accepted names (whitelist) first so as not to annoy people who already mail you. You can also write a nice personal message explaining the service to anyone who is asked to confirm their identity. One provider of this is SpamArrest. The service isn't free, and your mail has to filter through a third party step. It's always been my belief that the more places your mail has to go through, the bigger the threat of losing good mail, but many companies use the service. A similar service was Mailblocks, which was then bought by AOL (a big spammer itself!) who then shut it down, no suprise, so you also face the threat that your 3rd party service may be sold or shut down.

Most small to medium sized business will outsource their email hosting to third party web hosting vendors. Most web hosts will have their own server side spam filters. However, you lose some of your control because changes to the filter's weight can only be made globally for all customers - not just your domain.

If you have your own in house mail server, you can install a server app such as Barracuda to police the spam before it hits your inbox.

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