Some Spam Solutions This web page offers some ideas of how to deal with "spam" at Nevis. The main points are:
  • what our mail server already does;
  • tips to reduce how susceptible you are to spam;
  • advice on how to configure the program you use to read your mail;
  • the tools available to you to filter spam (if you're looking for instructions on how to install SpamAssassin, you want this page instead);

The number of unsolicitied commercial e-mail messages ("spam") received at Nevis has increased dramatically in recent months. It fills our mail inboxes, slows down our mail server, uses up bandwidth, is often personally offensive or illegal, and wastes our most valuable commodity: time.

There are some things we can do to address this problem. However, any solution will not be 100% efficient. If we filter e-mail according to any criteria, there will always be:

With these limitations in mind, here are the tools we have available right now.


Mail server configuration

The mail server at Nevis has been configured to reduce the amount of spam it receives, and to prevent its use by spammers to send mail to others.

There are two possible spam-blocking techniques that we do not implement on the mail server.


Reducing your susceptiblity to spam

There are many excellent web sites that discuss this topic; I find the CAUCE to be helpful.

In general, you should make it hard for spammers to acquire your e-mail address in the first place. They typically get your address from one of two places:

Here are some tips to help reduce the chance your e-mail address will be picked up by either of these methods:


Configuring your mail reader

All of the advice in this section applies to graphical mail readers such as Thunderbird, Mozilla, Outlook, Eudora, Mail.app, etc. If you use Pine, you can skip this section.

To start, there's the basic advice noted below: If the program you use to read your mail includes a spam filter, turn it on.

But there's another general piece of advice to consider: Don't send or receive HTML mail messages.

  1. See if your mail reader has an option to prevent rendering HTML. If it does, turn off the HTML.

    This means you won't see any fancy fonts, colored letters, and other formatting that people might use to send messages to you. But it also prevents spammers and hackers from using HTML "tricks" to fool your mail reader.

  2. See if your mail reader has an option to prevent the download of images embedded in a mail message. If it does, turn off the automatic download of images.

    This will spare you from looking at all sort of abusive pictures that spammer might send you. It also will protect you from "web bugs". A web bug is a tiny picture embedded into a mail message as an invisible web graphic. You don't see it - but if your mail reader downloads it and displays it (unnoticeably) on your screen, the spammer's web server will have a message saying that you read the mail. The spammer then knows for certain that there's someone at that mail address, and the amount of spam you receive will increase dramatically.

  3. Find the option that allows you to compose mail using HTML, and turn it off. This means your messages will sent in plain text, without fancy fonts, formatting such as bold-face or italics, colored backgrounds, and so on.

    This is actually the inverse of point (1). Spammers often use HTML to compose their ads, or use HTML coding tricks to mask various hacking attempts and other nastiness. If you use HTML, you increase the risk that your mail will be identified as spam by other mail readers.

  4. If you want to attach a graphics file to your e-mail, fine. But don't embed a picture within your e-mail (this means the recipient of your message would see the graphic as part of the message). If you've followed the previous step, you won't be able to do this anyway, since the ability to do this is linked to using HTML.

    Why? The reason is the inverse of point (2). Spammers use embedded pictures for ads, and for various hacker tricks.


Spam filters

Many mail programs now come with "spam filters", that is, they analyze the content of a mail message to determine if it's spam. Among these programs are Microsoft Outlook and Apple's Mail.app. If you are using a program that includes built-in spam filtering, I highly recommend that you turn this feature on.

However, two frequently-used mail clients at Nevis, Pine and older versions of Mozilla, do not include content-based filters for spam. They have filters that allow you to automatically transfer messages to different folders based on key words or the sender's address, but it takes a long time to set up an effective spam filter by yourself.

There a spam filter, SpamAssassin, available on the Nevis mail server. A full description of what this filter is and how to use it is on this web page.


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