Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Canning Spam

Spam: it's one of the nastiest and most annoying problems in the information age. Forget junk mail and telemarketers: spammers can cram your inbox with junk without doing so much as clicking a few buttons. In this article I will talk a little about what's being done now, and what you can do to fend off spam.

CANSPAM
It's a piece of legislation intended to stop (or at least curb) the flow of spam. Has it worked? Nope. In fact, the levels of (now illegal) spam have only increased, at an exponential rate, since CANSPAM was passed. We shouldn't be surprised. These are the same folks who don't give a dingo's kidneys if your phone number is on the "do not call" list. These people are the evil greedy money-grubbing monsters we know as "marketers." Laws can't stop them. Cages can't hold them. But fortunately, there are a few things you can do to ward them off.

1. Get Gmail
The most effective anti-spam tool is Gmail. It's true. Of all webmail services available, Gmail has the highest rating for getting rid of spam and keeping the real mail. On top of that, Gmail makes it very difficult for spammers to use Gmail. There are also some tips and tricks that only Gmail offers (we'll point these out a little later).

2. Don't Publish your Email Address
It seems like it can't hurt to post your email address to a chat room or a website. Beware! Spambots, programs that crawl the web and chat protocols searching for email addresses, will find it and sign it up for spamlists. Sometimes these lists of email addresses are even sold to marketers. The trick? Post your email address like this: cubex.de(at)gmail.com, or see the next tip.

3. Embed your Email Address in an Image
The next way to avoid spammers getting a hold of your address is to embed it in an image, like this:

Now only real people can email you, because computer programs are really bad at reading text from images. Get your own here.

4. Gmail Tip: Filter it Out
In Gmail you can make custom addresses for different uses, and have them all come to the same account. For example, I can have each of these email addresses:
cubex.de+techtrek(at)gmail.com
cubex.de+spam(at)gmail.com
cubex.de+box(at)gmail.com
all come to this inbox:
cubex.de(at)gmail.com
Just use your normal email address, add a "+" and a keyword (like "techtrek"), and you may then make a filter in Gmail so that if you start receiving spam to that address, it can just get flushed.

5. Thunderbird
Don't use webmail? No problem. Mozilla's email client, companion to the award winning Firefox web browser, has excellent spam filtering capabilities which are constantly learning and improving with every email you get.

6. Spamato
This easy to use spam filter installs easily, and is totally free. It even won an award from PC World magazine.

7. Disposable Email Addresses
Ever wanted to make a temporary email address, get a confirmation email from a service you signed up for, and then forget about the address? Unfortunately this means you have to sign up for an email address every time, right? Not necessarily. Now you can create a disposable email address easily using dodgeit, which makes it easy to get and forget an email address. Was it blocked by a clever signup service? Try using spambob instead.

8. Spampoison
Remember how we talked about spambots in #2? Webmasters can feed these mindless machines millions of fake email addresses that make the compiled address lists useless. To find out how to add this functionality to your website or blog in minutes, visit Spampoison.

These tips are all good, but the spammers still make money off their trade. If they didn't, they'd be out of business. This means no more spam, no more filters, nothing. This means there is a simple way everyone can help to fight spam: ignore it. Opening it or worse, clicking a link inside it, only proves to the spammers that someone out there can be fooled, and they will keep at it. So the best way to stop spam is:

IGNORE IT, AND IT WILL GO AWAY.

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