Thought for the day: Throw out the junk with the trash

Keeping control of spam may be a daily grind for some, but a spam filter may help by declaring all your mail as junk, says Simon...

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Keeping control of spam may be a daily grind for some, but a spam filter may help by declaring all your mail as junk, says Simon Moores.

 

 

 

 

Reducing my spam burden by 70% came as a surprise.  For me, at least, the war is almost over. 

Unsolicited e-mail in my inbox has, this summer, overtaken legitimate e-mail and now everything is shunted into my deleted folder until I choose to move it elsewhere.

This is not intentional, but having turned Outlook’s Spam filter on, I can’t turn it off, even with help from Microsoft, who concede that it’s filters might be a little temperamental.

And so, I’m stuck with everything going straight into the trash can as it arrives, which works quite well in a strange sort of way.

Back then, to the miracle of cutting down on junk mail.

I set up a BTconnect e-mail address for my wife, which, incidently, has never been used. Any mail it might receive is forwarded to my inbox, but this address is also my single largest source of junk mail.

Why is this, I wonder? I can see that her address on the distribution list for the multiple Viagra and Prozac offers don’t appear to suggest a dictionary attack on BT. Other names alongside hers include amit@btconnect.com, amj@btconnect.com and amoliver@btconnect.com so it’s clearly a distribution list of many thousands of names, starting with the letter ‘A’.

Is it a question of a lucky guess, or has the BT subscriber list fallen into the hands of a bulk e-mailer using one of many aliases?

Eight years ago, when I was a director of a large ISP, we received a call from the Metropolitan Police Computer Crime Unit. They told us that all our subscriber account details were sitting on a Usenet hacker forum. We had been hacked and we didn’t even know about it.

Hacking, in the days before Internet Explorer became popular and Netscape Navigator was the new software superstar, was rather easier than it is today. Security resembled comic opera because the internet revolution was in the hands of a small number of technically skilled enthusiasts who led the business community around by their noses.

Today, it should be different, in theory at least. I should be able to create an e-mail address which isn’t an obvious name, on any ISP and expect it to be relatively safe unless I’m gullible enough to respond to a message from oe65io9l9cr@mail2Golfer.com  like the following:

"‘Tired of Spam?  We have an answer’. The "Do Not Spam" List from Global Removal, found at:  www.GlobalRemoval.com/index.asp?id=1054 can get your e-mail address removed from hundreds of bulk e-mail lists’.

This is almost as convincing as, “You are attached to ticket number 023-0148-790-459, with serial number 5073-11 drew the lucky numbers 43-11-44-37-10-43, and have therefore been approved for a lump sum pay out of $5,500.000.00 in cash.”

From a business perspective, the answer may be to keep one e-mail address strictly for commercial use and use a second alias for everything else.

There’s no guarantee, if you happen to be using an ISP rather than a corporate messaging server, that your address won’t somehow leak out to the Viagra set. But for many of us, it’s too late to change a well-established address without instantly confusing hundreds, if not thousands of contacts.

Perhaps one solution is to follow my example and try Outlook’s quirky spam filter, which may immediately and irrevocably declare all your incoming e-mail to be junk.

What do you think?

Have you any advice on how to cut down the amount of junk mail arriving in your inbox? Tell us in an e-mail >>  ComputerWeekly.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com


 

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