Monty Python did a skit where they said the word SPAM so many times you wanted to run screaming from
the room. SPAM is either junk e-mail or junk postings in a newsgroup. Typically it is an advertisement for some
product, or scam totally unrelated to the newsgroup, e.g. pornography in the
newsgroup. People try various tactics to avoid getting on the spammer’s hit lists. For the most part they
just annoy or block legitimate correspondents. Eventually we will invent legal or technical countermeasures, but
for now it is just a fact of life like mosquitos on a camping trip.
Spam is usually an advertisement for something, but it can be any sort of junk mail sent without any regard
for whether it would be of interest to the recipient, such as chain letters or Kristian proselytising.
Spam is beginning to cripple the entire email system. The number of spam message has increased 8 fold between
2000-12 and 2002-05. This is a compounding rate of
13% a month, even faster than MasterCard interest mounts up.
Spammers commandeer mail sites and make the broadcast spam email. Going through a commandeered mail server
helps mask the spammer’s identity.
There are three things can do, report abuse, secure your mailserver and block spam.
Spammer as Epithet
People often use the word spammer as a general insult word in place of shithead. It is used to chastise someone for a lame post, an irrelevant post, an unhelpful post,
a post that another disagrees with, a slightly-off-topic post, an erroneous post, a post that mentions a
commercial product favourably, a post with a link to one’s own website, a post that answers the wrong
It can drive you mad trying to defend yourself against the charge of spammer if
you take the insult literally since those using it have no idea of its original meaning.
Spammers use all kinds of tricks to get you to look at their spam and click its links:
- Insult you.
- Panic you with some bogus report of some charge.
- Use language a long lost friend might use.
- Use your name in the subject.
- Say something that makes no sense, hoping to pique your curiosity.
For how to report newsgroup spam see net abuse.
Spam Cop provides an unsolicited email complaint system with
access via both email and the web. They try to figure out the responsible party or parties and send an (somewhat)
anonymised complaint form to them. They also have a local newsserver with several discussion groups at news.spamcop.net. Note, this a newsserver,
not a web page.
To do the complaint yourself, use the Eudora Blah Blah icon, or equivalent in your mail program, to display
all the message headers. In there, are clues to the possible culprit.
Received: from pd2mr1so.prod.shaw.ca
(pd2mr1so-qfe3.prod.shaw.ca [10.0.141.110]) by l-daemon
with ESMTP id <0HWA001A9NPPLM@l-daemon> for firstname.lastname@example.org; Fri, Received: from pd5mi2so.prod.shaw.ca
by pd2mr1so.prod.shaw.ca (Sun ONE Messaging Server 6.0 HotFix 1.01 (built Mar
15 2004)) with ESMTP id <0HWA00962NPJ0ZC0@pd2mr1so.prod.shaw.ca> for
email@example.com (ORCPT firstname.lastname@example.org); Fri, 16 Apr 2004 20:46:31 -0600 (MDT)
Received: from vega.servlets.net (vega.servlets.net [18.104.22.168])
with ESMTP id <0HWA00B2YNPO47@l-daemon> for email@example.com; Fri,
Received: from mail.inter-corporate.com ([22.214.171.124])
by vega.servlets.net (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id TAA07545 for
<firstname.lastname@example.org>; Fri, 16 Apr 2004 19:46:41 -0700
ID MO0006B1; Fri, 16 Apr 2004 19:46:33 -0700
Received: from spooler by mail.inter-corporate.com (Mercury/32 v3.32); Fri,
Received: from someone.mindprod.com (126.96.36.199) by mail.inter-corporate.com
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2004 19:42:55 -0700
From: Roedy Green <email@example.com>
Message-id: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Original-recipient:
Buried in that gibberish there, especially X-Complaints-To, are many domain names you
can look up with whois, and IPs (Internet Protocols)
that you can look up who owns them at arin.net or domaintools.com. From that you can track down some email addresses
to complain to a telephone numbers to call, in the same manner as for newsgroup net abuse.
When you make your complaints, make sure you include the complete text of the email including the full
If the email contains a virus, there is no point is reporting net abuse. The person it purports to be from was
very unlikely the actual sender, and the person who did send it did not do so intentionally. Don’t blame
the FROM: person. He is nearly always innocent! His machine is not necessarily
infected. The machine of someone with his email address in the Outlook address book is infected.
The American FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is still interested in email scams such as 419 (Nigerian, advance fee) spam mail. The usual scam involves someone wanting to launder millions
of dollars through your bank account.
Securing Your Mailserver
This only applies if you run your own mailserver. Most people let their ISP (Internet Service Provider)
do that for them. There are three ways to fight back to stop spammers from using
your mail server.
- Refuse to forward mail unless the FROM: field is your domain. This is fairly easy to spoof so is not very
- Keep a list of valid IPs from which your mail server is prepared to
accept outgoing mail.
- Use POP3 (Post Office Protocol version 3) authentication.
Make people login with a user id and password if they want to use your mail server.
If people would stop using Microsoft Email programs Outlook and Outlook Explorer, it would stop most virus-based
spam in its tracks. These two programs are criminally negligent in the way they deliberately aid viruses to
spread. Use something else e.g. Eudora, or some other mail reader.
To stop email viruses and worms, you need a virus checker such as Norton Antivirus or Panda Antivirus. You are
protecting not only yourself, but also your reputation. If you are don’t take precautions you will infect
everyone you send mail to.
There are 5 types of spam-blocking software:
- an add-in or feature of your email client.
- a program than runs on the client that gets between your email program and the mailserver.
- a program that runs on the client, that runs in parallel with your email program. It takes a first peek at
the mail and classifies or deletes spam, then your mail program fetches what is left from the server.
- software you run in conjunction with a mailserver.
- a service you sign up for to provide spam-fee mailboxes, usually not with your domain name.
Spam Blocking Software
Spam blocking software has two problems, recognising spam based on word patterns, without accidentally blocking
real mail. It needs fairly sophisticated logic to make those decisions.
- BogoFilter: with C source for
Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, OS (Operating System) X, HP-UX, AIX (Advanced Interactive eXecutive.). Uses a
Bayesian filtering technique.
requires iMap mail server, not POP3. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- Em Tec Spam Detective
spam filter that works with MAPI (Messaging API), POP3 and SMTP3. Now called MailShield.
- HashCash: free. the idea of this is to force the sender
to invest some time and money in getting through to you, by forcing him to spend CPU (Central Processing Unit)
time to compute a key to get through. This expense should deter spammers.
Unfortunately, it will deter legit callers too. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
per year. Works only with Outlook and Outlook Express. Server based. No software in client at all.
Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- K9: free with request for donations. Gradually learns
what is spam. It acts as a proxy mailserver. Your mail program goes to it for mail and it goes to your
This makes it a little more complicated to set up. It does not delete any mail, just tags it with [spam] so your email filter program can easily identify it. Unfortunately it does not seem to
handle SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) proxy as well, so
it requires an email program, e.g. not Eudora 6, that than configure the passwords and servers independently
for SMTP and POP3. The manual is on the web. The program has not even
rudimentary tooltips. It is not a program you can figure out easily without reading the documentation. It
won’t delete the junk off the server for you. You must still download it into your mail program and
dispose of it there. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- MailBlocks: similar to Zaep, now owned by
AOL (America Online), but server based so you don’t have to tunnel
challenge messages through a firewall. You sign up with new email accounts at MailBlocks. Then you can do
Everyone in your address book is whitelisted. Everyone else gets a challenge the first time they send you
email. If ignore the challenge, the email is treated as spam. If they answer, they get put on the white list.
Basic service is free. Premium service (more space to store mail, more rules for filtering) is
per year. This sounds fairly fool proof compared with Zaep. The disadvantage is legit callers will be
offended and will refuse to answer the challenge, or the challenge will be lost and treated as spam itself.
- Get people to send you mail directly to your new MailBlocks accounts.
- On bended knee, ask your ISP to forward your mail to your existing email accounts to the new MailBlocks
- Ask MailBlocks to periodically pick up your mail from your old accounts.
- Mailinator: Free disposable email accounts. You are on
the web, at a party, or talking to your favorite insurance salesman. Wherever you are, someone (or some
webpage) asks for your email address. You know if you give it, you’ll be on their spam list. On the other
hand, you do want at least one message from that person. The answer is to give them a Mailinator address. You
don’t need to sign-up. You just make it up on the spot. Pick email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org — pick anything
you want (up to 15 characters before the @ sign). Obviously, these are not secure.
There are no passwords. Anyone can pick up your mail who knows the account. Use these whenever a someone
demands an email address to download software or activate an account when you want no further mail from them
after that. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- MailShield, née Em Tec Spam Detective.
Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- Use Tagged email addresses. This requires no special software. Use a return
address like this email@example.com that will deliver to firstname.lastname@example.org and allow you to see where the address came from. For instance, if you end
up getting spam from email@example.com, and you only gave that address
to amazon.com, you know where the leak occurred. Of course clever spammers will
strip the tag.
- MailWasher: free with request for donations. Previews
mail, similarly to SpamDetective and deletes it. Lets you mark all mail as deletable or bounceable, but not the
reverse. Accesses databases of blacklisted ISPs (Internet Service Providers). I found it froze
up frequently when confronted with 1500+ pieces of Sven Worm-created junk mail.
- NewsReader/MailReader student project
, not a spam filter but a tool to track down the source of spam and to
manage complaints to the offending ISP. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- Popfile. free, opensource. Too often mistakes legitimate
mail for spam. It sits between your email program and the mail server. It works with Windows, or with any
platform that supports perl. It is free. It works by identifying spammish words from a dictionary you maintain.
Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
for the Mac. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- SaProxy, free, open source, uses
25 to 80 MB of RAM (Random Access Memory). Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- Spam Assassin free. Uses Vipul’s Razor to
collaboratively evaluate spam.
- Spam Seive .
Bayesian filtering. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- Spam Filter student project
- Spam Inspector
one time charge. Integrates with Eudora or Outlook. Free trial. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- Spam slicer.
Uses disposable email addresses. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
per year for a spam-free mailbox. They look after detecting and removing spam. The nice thing about this
service is you don’t need to install any software on your machine and you don’t need to change your
email address. What happens is you change your email program to pick up mail from SpamArrest, and SpamArrest
picks up the mail from your ISP. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- Spambayes. free, open source.
Its IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)
proxy is buggy, though the POP3 proxy seems OK though. Open source for Microsoft Outlook. It has a more polished
commercial version called Inboxer.
Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
per year. Sell spam-free email accounts, and lists of spammers to feed into blocking software.
Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- Spamhilator free. a Bayesian filter.
- SpamNix: a Baynesian filter than integrates
This is what I used myself for many years before I used the Thunderbird built-in spam filter. It took about a
year before it got good at discriminating spam from gold.
Free trial with nagging to purchase every time you
start Eudora. Persistent nagging is only appropriate after the advertised trial has ended. You train it by
letting it sniff mailboxes that contain either pure spam or pure gold. This initial training process is quite
slow and gobbles up all your CPU. It must be done with freshly compacted mailboxes. Thereafter it just does it on
individual messages it errs in categorising. CNet rates it highly. SpamNix uses some of the SpamAssassin code.
Use the junk/not junk to move spam that gets through you manually and train in one
step. All that happens if you click accept/reject is it trains itself for the future
or lets you set up an explicit filter. The nice thing about it is it quickly gets spam out of the in folder,
which is delicate and is corrupted if the Panda antivirus program deletes a message. I still end up reviewing
every piece of spam before finally deleting it since it sometimes make mistakes. Oddly by default it does
nothing with spam but categorise it. You can to configure it to throw spam into the junk mailbox or trash
mailboxes based on some cutoff level of confidence. It stores its list of explicit allow/rejects in
F:\Program Files\Eudora\plugins\spamnix.ini. n Windows, copy the file
mailfolder\Plugins\Spamnix.ini and the directory
to the new computer, where mailfolderis the location of your mail files. It stores its Baynesian
training information in F:\Program Files\Eudora\plugins\Spamnix\*.db. The file
F:\Program Files\Eudora\plugins\0Spamnix.dll is supposed to be there despite its
peculiar name. If you move Spamnix to a new computer, move F:\Program Files\Eudora\plugins\spamnix.ini and everything in F:\Program Files\Eudora\plugins\Spamnix\. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- SpamWatch free. This is a
built-in no-extra-cost feature of the Eudora mail program. Every time you transfer a message to the junk
mailbox, it learns its characteristics so it can automatically detect similar spam in future. You can put junk
and unjunk icons on your tool bar for marking junk, and rescuing good stuff from the junk folder. Eudora is now
defunct so this is effectively defunct oo.
- Thunderbird Email free. A email program with a built-in spam filter.
The filter is almost impossible to train. I have marked emails from some parties hurdreds of times, and it still refuses
to consider them spam. It will not let me directly blacklist a given email address. It wants to figure it out by content.
Once it does get trained, it works well.
- Vipul’s Razor free. open source. Perl geeks solution to
collaboratively evaluating spam. Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
- Zaep from RhinoSoft the makers of FTP Voyager. This works a quite different way. The first time anyone sends you mail,
they get an automatically generated response asking them to click an url taking them to Zaep’s
webserver to confirm they intended to send you mail. After they have done that, that mail and all subsequent
mail gets through unimpeded. You don’t need to set up a mailserver. At the client site, Zaep stands
between the client email software and any of their mailservers, local or at ISP
s, as a miniature proxy
Hint: when you first install the default userid/password is admin/admin. You have
to dig in the knowledge base to discover this. After you change it, it is registered on the Zaep server, so
it does not revert back, even if you uninstall/reinstall.
Zaep does not currently support IMAP.
You need to configure it with a domain name or permanent IP (Internet Protocol).
If you have a
dynamic IP, you can get a free domain name that tracks it from Dyn or DNS4ME. The spam harvesters may at some point learn to defeat this thing, but for now
it has a good chance of getting rid of all spam.
per year. The big problem is you may miss mail from legitimate customers who can’t be bothered to
respond to the challenge, or whose own spam blocking software throws the challenges away thinking them spam.
This is a solution for someone inundated with spam with legitimate correspondents trying hard to get through.
I am working get it going on my own machine. I have discovered it does not work with the Opera browser for
administration, and does not work with IE (Internet Explorer), on my machine, unless I manually modify the
URLs (Uniform Resource Locators)
it uses from 127.0.0.1 to localhost. It appears to support
only one mailserver, but many email accounts, possibly coming from different machines on the
LAN (Local Area Network). It is fairly complicated. You require two internal
proxy ports, one external port for accepting confirmation requests and a fourth port used for doing
configuration changes, either locally or remotely.
You must configure your firewall and router to let the confirmation port through. You must also configure
your router as a virtual server to pass through incoming messages on the confirmation port to the particular
machine you have set up as the Zaep server. You also must be sure Windows filtering is letting the messages
through. Check out Start ⇒ Settings Control Panel ⇒ Network ⇒
⇒ Properties ⇒ Advanced. Eudora 6.1 no longer lets
you configure the SMTP
and POP3 ports. unless you copy extrastuff\esoteric.epi to
the main Eudora directory. Unfortunately, that does not give you the ability to individually configure each
of your personalities. It effectively limits you to one email server. To do that, you must manually edit the
In version 3.0 you have the option of ignoring the notifications from the
Zaep server tunneling through your firewall, and just automatically generate the email challenges yourself
when you go online to fetch mail. Even with this simplification, I could not get it to work.
Last revised/verified: 2008-07-28
Spam Blocking Hardware
Premptive Devices né,e
Tyrnstone Systems’ Deep Six was a box that
protected an entire network from spam. It claimed to be much better at detecting spam and avoiding false positives
than the competition. It claimed to allow only 0.8% of spam through with 0.002% false positives. It used
blacklists (bad guys) and whitelists (friends). It cost
so it could be justified only for corporate use. Tynstone keep updating the appliance automatically, though it is
not clear if they are maintaining blacklists for you or just fine-tuning their detection algorithms. Spam costs
corporations huge amounts in employee time, so even modest increases in spam-detecting efficiency are worth
pursuing. WARRANTY: 30 day device performance assurance. 90 days appliance malfunction.
Extended warranty and upgrade assurance is available. Last revised/verified: 2008-09-06
There are dozens of databases that track known spammers. Many mail programs refuse to transport mail from or to
this bad guys. People who leave open relays allowing spammers to highjack their mail servers can also get on this
list. Sometimes people put you on such lists out of spite. To get off, you first need to check your status, then
contact the various databases to plead you case.
Insert the IP of the site you want test after ip=, or you can key it once you get to the
dnssnuff site. Use ping to get the IP.
You can block junk snail mail (aka hard copy spam) in Canada by writing to:
Canadian Direct Marketing Association
Do Not Mail Service
1 Concorde Gate Suite 607
Don Mills ON M3C 3N6
Tel: (416) 391 2362
fax: (416) 441 4062
or in the United States:
Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale NY 11735
Tel: (212) 768 7277
You can request telemarketers and junk mailers leave you alone at iOptOut.ca.
There are at least eight classes of spammer:
- Vendors trying sell you something, usually pornography.
- Con artists fishing for suckers.
provocateurs just trying to annoy you out of simple childish malice.
- Fanatics trying to sell you religious ideas. They believe the importance of their divine message overrides
the normal rules of courtesy.
- Propagandists with a desperate political message. They may even consider what they are doing a form of
- Control freaks who want to shut you up and censor your ideas by clogging your email system and thus
preventing you from communicating with others.
- Bigots who seek revenge on you for holding a divergent opinion from them, usually on matters political,
religious or sexual. These types have taken to sending larger and larger messages, so that even if you
automatically identify them as spam, they have still managed to tie up your Internet connection.
- Viruses that generate gibberish mail just to annoy people, but not to persuade them to act in any
particular way. It is sort of competition to see how much havoc the virus creator can stir up.
The Future of Spam
I had a bit of a fright in 2004-06. I thought for a while I was under another email
DOS (Denial Of Service attack). I wondered if I would be able to publicly post even my munged public email
address ever again. During the Serbian war, I received 80,000 letter bombs a day
from people who objected to my pro-US stance. Pretty well anyone, even marginally more famous or controversial
than I am, can no longer maintain a public email address. The proportion of people being cut off totally from
public email access is gradually increasing.
In like manner, I can see how spammers with political, religious, pornographic, malicious, or commercial
interests will gradually make the newsgroups and standard email totally unusable. As my Dad you used say all the
time, watch the derivative eXibitionsoftware.com is selling software to the technopeasant fanatics
to spam tens of thousands of newsgroups at a pop.
We can’t wait like frogs in hot water until the email and newsgroups are completely gridlocked before
I see a multi-pronged approach will be necessary:
Spamming needs to be made criminal and spammers prosecuted, preferably by hanging, drawing and quartering.
Was there ever a better case for the death penalty? Was there a less provoked crime? However, spammers will
always find some country to harbour them. Surely some third world country will always foster the spam
industry just as the Cayman Islands harbours crooked companies, and Nigeria harbours tramp ships. With the
net, they can set up shop in SomethingIstan and effective maintain virtual storefronts in every country.
We must educate people to ensure spammers don’t get whatever it is they want from
spamming, be it sales, web hits, censorship, notoriety, sense of power, malice, revenge denial of service or
attention. Refuse all mail from ISPs
that harbour spammers and let them know why you are doing that. Make sure they are truly guilty, not just the
victims of virus counterfeit spam.
The Boulder Pledge
Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail
message. Nor will I forward chain letters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of
others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community.
~ Roger Ebert (born: 1942-06-18 died: 2013-04-04 at age: 70)
I see a new email delivery system evolving to completely replace POP3/SMTP. It will have a number of
- Automatic encryption, compression and digital signing. The degree of encryption has to be automatically
decided based on the laws governing sender and receiver. The basic idea is no one can send you mail without
your permission. With digital signatures, it is practically impossible to forge email. Basically, nothing
gets transported any leg of the way without a preclearance permission.
- Automatic tracking, much the way you can track what has happened to a Fedex parcel as it wends its way.
You should potentially be able to know if a message was not delivered or not noticed.
- Forwarding standard with mechanisms to inform all your legit correspondents automatically of your new
address and keep them up to date on whatever vCard style
information you want them to know.
- Full efficient use of the 8-bit transparent channels. The current email
system wastes much of the bandwidth with voluminous human-readable headers, 7-bit characters, and no
- Sender-pays-receiver system so any spam that does leak through still costs the spammer. If it costs the
to send an email, and the receiver gets
of that, most people will break even or make money. As soon as spammers have to pay costs comparable to
junk snail mail, they will drastically cut back. As it is now, we subsidise the spammers to pester us.
- The best anti-spam thinking is built-in, suitable for technopeasants — technology along the line
of Vipul’s Razor with the geeky edges shaved off. Spam
detection has to move to the server where it can be quickly headed off even before the entire message has
- Suitable for exchanging large files, and common files, similar to BitTorrent.
- Ways to protect against denial of service attacks by presenting a united front against the spammer,
rather than leaving an individual to fend for himself.
- Designed from the ground up for technopeasants. Everything is automatic and transparent.
- Anti-spam clubs that police their members. Members get time-limited digital certificates. You can
accept or reject mail based on the reputation of the self-policing club. You can then be anonymous,
uniquely identifiable, but still have a public reputation. Spam club members either police themselves or
destroy their own reputations.
- The original email system was cooked up overnight as a demo. The author surely never dreamed his system
would be used almost unmodified for planetary email scheme. It needs a major overhaul.
- There needs to be a separate system for public newsgroups like the Group Lens where posters of useful material are rewarded financially and those posting
spam are fined.
- Dealing with spam is a challenging technical problem, and I don’t think we will make much
progress without an overhaul of the basic mail system. This means we can’t wait for total gridlock
before acting. The solution is difficult both technically and politically and will take substantial time to
There should be a simple and uniform way on the Internet including websites, blogs, email, social media,
forums… to say, I don’t want to hear another word from this turkey ever, and I don’t want him
posting on any of page I moderate. To make this work, everyone needs to get an unforgeable digital id, that has
non-negligible cost. People and corporations are not permitted to have more than one, so they cannot defeat the
system by writing under many aliases. Technically people would have two IDs, one where their true identity can be
determined, and one where they are anonymous, or equivalently post under an arbitrary display name.