Yahoo beefs up antispam tools

Yahoo is continuing to boost its tools for fighting unsolicited e-mail.

Yahoo is continuing to boost its tools for fighting unsolicited e-mail.

To continue helping its users, the provider of internet content and services is adding five new products to its anti-spam arsenal, including the scanning of every attachment arriving or leaving a user's inbox to check for viruses.

While the other four enhancements are standard, the decision to scan all incoming and outgoing attachments stands out as particularly interesting because so many viruses are spread that way, said Jim Nail, a Forrester Research senior analyst.

"The biggest addition here is the scanning of attachments for viruses. This is something consumers will get a ton of value out of," Nail said.

The service, which is available to all Yahoo e-mail users, scans all attachments for viruses, blocking infected attachments from being downloaded, sent or forwarded.

Users who subscribe to the Yahoo Mail Plus service, which starts at $29.99 (£17.94) per year, get the additional option of scrubbing the attachment to remove the virus.

Previously, Yahoo left it up to its mail users to decide whether they wanted their attachments scanned, said Miles Libbey, Yahoo's antispam product manager.

Users could bypass scanning attachments to accelerate mail downloading for example. However, given the serious consequences of recent virus attacks, the company decided to scan all attachments, he said.

The four antispam enhancements include:

AddressGuard, a feature which gives Yahoo Mail Plus users disposable e-mail aliases they can use instead of their real e-mail address.

For example, a user might want to use an alias when conducting an online transaction or subscribing to an online group. If the alias then falls into a spammer's hands, the user can simply ditch this disposable address.

A user can have up to 500 e-mail aliases in use simultaneously. E-mail sent to these addresses arrives in the user's inbox. This is not available to users of Yahoo's free e-mail service.

SpamGuard Plus, an enhancement to Yahoo's proprietary SpamGuard spam filter. SpamGuard Plus lets users customise the general SpamGuard filter based on their usage and preferences. This is only available to Yahoo Mail Plus users.

Message Views, which lets users sort e-mail sent by people listed in their personal address book and by unknown senders.

This could help a user prioritise which messages he reads and replies to first, the logic being he would want to deal first with e-mail from senders he knows.

This is available to all users of Yahoo's e-mail service.

AntiSpam resource centre, a section of Yahoo's website network with information, tips and best practices on dealing with spam.

Yahoo decided to invest in this resource center because it has found out through surveys that many users still ignore the basics of how to protect themselves from spam, such as not replying to unsolicited e-mail messages. All Yahoo mail users have access to this resource centre.

All enhancements apart from Message Views are available immediately. Message Views will be rolled out between next week and November.

Juan Carlos Perez writes for IDG News Service

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