What do you think about SPAM

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Do you receive a lot of SPAM after you've had the same e-mail address for over 20 years? I get 20-30 unsolicited messages every week (and this is after being 2 years on the Internet) and this number seems to grow every day. I've installed perl script which checks each incoming message against SPAM database and rejects unwanted e-mail (for example @cyberpromo.com) It does seem to help a bit, but I also have to reject anything from aol.com, hotmail.com, usa.net, etc. because these are commonly abused domains. This way I could have important mail trashed together with junk, so I don't think this is a cure. Do you have any ideas of how this problem (maybe just an inconvenience?) can be solved in the future (of Internet)?

-- Vasiliy --, November 10, 1997


I probably get 20 SPAM messages per day. I get at least 50 email messages from readers every day plus another 100 from friends, research collaborators, server monitors, etc. So the SPAM isn't a huge problem to delete (I read my mail in RMAIL, a 20-year-old tool that is bundled with GNU Emacs; I think it is somewhat more efficient at handling large volumes of mail than the usual Eudora-ish PC/Mac stuff).

Modern computer clusters are adopting a variety of anti-spam techniques. One is to subscribe to a service that provides REGEXPs for "known spammers". Then you feed these REGEXPs periodically into your mail transfer agent (e.g., sendmail or Post.Office) and it kills anything incoming that matches the SPAM patterns. This is really very similar to SurfWatch and NetNanny and the other companies that maintain and sell lists of naughty Web sites (I'm proud to say that my own server accounts for more than half the banned URLs at MIT).

I once got a reply to a reader rejected by a SPAM filter. It said "we keep a list of known non-spammers so if you reply to this, 'philg@mit.edu' will be added to the list and all of your future mail (plus whatever you just sent) will be forwarded to the recipient."

This would work pretty well except that it would block some solicited email alerts, e.g., from my bboard software (users sign up to be notified "once per week of all messages matching 'Oracle'").

Anyway, the technology seems to be lagging a year or two behind the problem. My friend Ellen Spertus starting working on email filtering at least four or five years ago, here in the MIT computer science labs. Most of the professors and other grad students laughed at her project (the same folks who told me that there was no future in this Web-database stuff). She would just smile and say "in two years, everyone will be using an email filter". Like most clever technologists, she underestimated the amount of time it takes the average person to adopt a new technology. But I think she is right in the long run.

-- Philip Greenspun, November 11, 1997

I save my SPAM. That way you can look back once in a while and have some sense of accomplishment. Like, "I got the same come-on for printer supplies 17 times - the one that says THIS WILL BE THE ONLY MAILING YOU RECEIVE and DO NOT EMAIL BACK BECAUSE OUR EMAIL BOX IS FULL (of complaints?).

-- Dan Boyd, April 23, 1998

Check out Procmail Spam Filter: "The Spam Bouncer" (if you have unixoid account). Only customization I needed to make was to list the mailinglists I subscribe to.

-- J Han, April 30, 1998

What he said (about the procmail tutorial). 99% of spam is easily filtered by tossing mail that doesn't contain your address in the headers, with the exception of mail from lists that you've actually joined.

I've used this for a year or so now. It's very effective, and much easier to maintaining than trying to keep a database of "known spammers"

-- John Peterson, October 2, 1998

Another alternative is blocking messages at the server based on the IP address of the connecting host. There are two major lists of bad IP address that are available via DNS lookups. The RBL is a list of spam friendly sites and open relays actively being abused. The ORBS is a list of open mail relays.

On my work station I use both of these, plus some static blocks for places like uunet dialups. I also do some bcc blocking, though that is mainly to block spam from my own University.

-- Bruno Wolff, October 27, 1998

Instead of just deleting all the messages without your address in the header, send them to a separate mailbox. I get some legit messages (from my online stock broker for instance) without my name in the To: field. But you can quickly go through this separate folder, deleting all the spam.

-- Michael Gensheimer, August 17, 1999

I've just stumbled on this forum here in 2003 and am having a fun time reading these old posts. Earlier today, I read a few articles about the latest attempts to stop the tsunami of Spam that is overflowing the email system. Seeing a complaint about 20-30 Spams a week is amusing.

Is anyone still around this forum, or have I found a dusty old closet in the back rooms of the internet? :)

-- Michelle Cox, January 21, 2003

Redirect mailto: for Spam Prevention

Prevent e-mail siphons from harvesting your e-mail addresses by separating the address from the Web page while still providing a way for users to click a link and have it open their local mailer.

Graphic @ for Spam Prevention

Prevent e-mail siphons from harvesting your e-mail address by not using the commercial "@" character when displaying your e-mail address on a Web page; use a graphical "@" instead.

-- James Thornton, January 21, 2003

A friend gave me a bit of javascript to disguise an email address. My own knowledge of computer code is practically non-existent. So while my explanation of how this works may not be convincing, it does seem to work quite well. In six months, I've not gotten a single spam message to any of the addresses so disguised on my site.

See: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/spam.htm

I hope you find this helpful. And I'd very much appreciate any feedback.

Terrific web site, Phillip!

Peter Jon White

-- Peter White, June 7, 2003