Mrs. Bun: Have you got anything without Spam?
Waitress: Well, there's Spam, egg, sausage, and Spam. That's not got much Spam in it.
Mrs. Bun: I don't want any Spam!
Like Mrs. Bun from the classic Monty Python sketch, every email user is inundated by that unwanted intruder known as spam. Our spam, of course, is electronic, but it's no less obnoxious or difficult to avoid. Spam has been a problem for some time, but in recent months, spam has become an epidemic. These unwanted messages, and the people who send them, have multiplied despite the fact that no one wants to receive them. Mark Minasi discussed one aspect of the spam explosion in his article "Privacy Policies Dissolve During Tough Economic Times," at the URL listed in Resources below.
But I'm going to tell you about some tools that can help you do something about spam.
I've been casually investigating ways to end the constant stream of spam, and until recently, hadn't gotten anywhere. Most of my email comes from a standard POP server, making a server-based solution difficult. So I settled, briefly, on a client-side solution from GBS Design called Inbox Protector.
Inbox Protector integrates with Microsoft Outlook and lets you sort email by various categories, such as general junk mail, casino ads, or adult content. You might choose to completely filter out adult content, for example, but let health-related emails through. You can also mark individual email addresses as banned or allowed. Inbox Protector places filtered email in a Junk Mail folder. Inbox Protector is inexpensive—about $30 for individual use and less for site licenses.
But Inbox Protector has two main problems: First, it's a client-side application, so it still downloads the spam from the server. Second, the application doesn't always work correctly. Despite the fact that I clearly marked certain email addresses as allowed, email from these addresses often ended up in Junk Mail.
So I kept looking for a better solution. I even considered using Hotmail as my primary email account because of the service's junk mail blocker. But, as many of you have probably discovered, the Hotmail junk mail service doesn't work: Every day, I log on to Hotmail and request that it block mail from certain addresses—and every day, more spam arrives from those addresses.
Paul: Have you got anything without spam?
Microsoft: Well, there's spam, Hotmail, and spam. That's not got much spam in it.
Paul: I don't want any spam!
Coincidently, a friend just told me about Novasoft's SpamKiller, which might solve my problem once and for all. SpamKiller runs on the desktop, but the application interacts with your POP or Messaging API (MAPI) email account on the server, separating spam from acceptable email. You can then delete the unwanted email before you download it. Best of all, SpamKiller marks spam so that you can't download it locally.
SpamKiller forces you to handle email in a way that's different from what you're used to, however. Usually, I set up Outlook to automatically download email at set intervals—every 5 or 10 minutes. I turned off this feature in SpamKiller so that the program could poll my email and alert me when nonspam email arrives. You can use the SpamKiller UI to manually or automatically delete spam on the server. The first few days, you'll probably need to manually monitor the spam on your server to ensure that the mailing lists you subscribe to can get through to your email client. SpamKiller is inexpensive (about $30) and works with virtually any email client.
Unfortunately, SpamKiller doesn't offer Microsoft Exchange Server-based spam protection. I'm still investigating the best way to eliminate spam in an Exchange Server environment. If you have any advice, let me know so that I can share your findings with UPDATE readers.
Waitress: You can't have egg, bacon, Spam, and sausage without the Spam.
Mrs. Bun: I don't like Spam!
Mr. Bun: Shh dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your Spam. I love it.
I'm having Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam, and Spam.