The volume of spam messages sent across the Internet has reached epidemic levels. Some industry experts estimate that three out of every five e-mail messages that are sent today are spam. One estimates that 55 billion spam messages are sent each day. The spam epidemic is costing companies, professionals, and individual users considerable amounts of time, money, and resources.
ITS and our hosting partners are committed to fighting spam. Records from just one data center indicate current spam filtering systems block nearly two billion e-mail messages each month. Our systems are updated daily and we are constantly working to improve our spam filtering. Additional enhancements to prevent the sending and receiving of unsolicited commercial e-mail messages are forthcoming.
In the meantime, you may be asking what you, as a user, can do to combat spam effectively. To assist you in your efforts, we provide the following answers to your questions.
Q: How can I prevent spam from reaching my e-mail account?
A: People who who send spam compile their mailing lists in many ways. Methods to compile such lists include:
- Sending spam to e-mail addresses that are most commonly used. A common tactic consists of building lists of targeted addresses that us frequently used words such as "webmaster" or "info" (for example, webmaster@mydomainname or info@mydomainname).
- Obtaining e-mail addresses that are automatically "harvested" from web sites by specialized software. Instead of listing your e-mail address directly on a web page, consider a server-side form-to-e-mail script such as this one to allow visitors to send you e-mail.
- Compiling lists of e-mail addresses that are either chosen or generate at random (for example, joe@mydomainname, bob@mydomainname or mary@mydomainname). Basically spammers try as many as they can, and keep the ones that don't bounce mail back undeliverable. This method is becoming increasingly frequent.
The hosting plans that we offer allow for the configuration of POP3 and alias/forwarding e-mail address types. We suggest configuring your mail settings to reject any undeliverable mail rather than pointing a "catch-all" e-mail alias to point to a mailbox. This will help prevent spam arriving by the third method above.
For example, let's assume that your Master Forward is set to info@mydomainname and this e-mail address is a POP3 account that is acting as the catch-all. Then, in your review of the email received, let's say that you notice that many of the e-mail messages that are sent to undefined aliases (such as bob@mydomainname) are actually spam messages. To combat that spam, set the Master Forward or catch-all alias to reject undeliverable mail. By doing this, all e-mail messages that are sent to undefined users will be refused and not delivered. As a result, the ability that spammers have to reach you is drastically reduced.
Q: What is spoofing and how can I fight it?
A: "Spoofing" occurs when a spammer uses some version of your domain name in the "From" address field. Spammers use spoofing to try to hide their identities and to pass blame for spam to innocent Internet users. The large amount of spam messages -- many of which are sent to invalid address -- result in a significant amount of "bounced" e-mail (that is, mail that returned as being undeliverable). Unfortunately, bounced mail is sent back to the address found in the "From" line of the spammed message. Typically, the "From" line is also an undefined e-mail address not found in your mail settings. To combat receiving bounced mail messages, you can set your account to reject undeliverable mail as we mentioned in the previous answer.
To help prevent others from using your domain name in spam, phishing, or virus e-mails, set up SPF for your domain.
Q: Even if my account is not generating any spam, can the mail server I use get blocked because of spam?
Unfortunately, yes. The main cause for blacklisting your mail server depends on where the spammed e-mail is ultimately received and how the ISP who maintains that location reacts to spam and to spam complaints. Many account holders with ITS forward e-mail messages that are sent to their hosting account. For example, a message sent to info@mydomainname could be forwarded to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. At other times, clients may be forwarding e-mail messages to accounts that are invalid or otherwise not in use. The processing of the forwarded e-mail message is handled by the mail server that your account uses (specifically, the MTA or Mail Transport Agent). Because one of our mail servers is the final MTA before the message arrives at AOL, it is possible that our mail server could be blacklisted even though you (or any other ITS client) is not responsible for sending the spam in the first place.
In short, you must be careful about where you forward e-mail, how you report spam, and to whom you report it.
Note: ITS reserves the right to terminate a client's services for violations of our Acceptable Use Policy. Unacceptable use includes forwarding e-mail messages to addresses that are invalid (not within the client's control) and/or sending mail with malicious intent.
Q: How can I filter spam in my Inbox once I receive it?
A: First, do NOT click any links in the spam or try to reply or unsubscribe to the spammed e-mail message. Often, these links will subscribe you to even more spam lists despite the fact that those links appear to promise that you will be unsubscribed. And, as spammers are always looking for legitimate e-mail addresses to spam, replying to a spam message in any way only tells the spammer that your e-mail address is valid.
Second, some e-mail programs have built-in functionality that deals with spam that reaches your Inbox. Outlook 2003 is one such e-mail program.
Third, there are add-on programs (free and fee-based) which can help filter out spam...see below.
A: Yes. There are many programs available that use a variety of methods to help e-mail end users filter spam. Effective spam prevention should include client-side software (that is, software that is installed on your local computer). ITS can suggest a few free third party programs that you may wish to investigate (for more information please see our newsletter article Eliminate Junk E-Mail). Please contact us if you would like assistance configuring your e-mail software to work with these programs.
Q: I don't want to deal with anti-spam software, are there other solutions?
A: Yes, consider our zero-configuration anti-spam service, ITS Mail Guard! For a small monthly fee, ITS Mail Guard will filter out spam for your staff with a high degree of accuracy and e-mail users summaries of the suspected spam messages so they can easily retrieve any incorrectly sorted e-mail.
Q: The spam that is reaching me is being sent to defined e-mail accounts. What can I do about it?
A: If any of your defined e-mail addresses are receiving too many spam messages, it may be well worth it to you to change your e-mail address. For example, if info@mydomainname is the recipient of too much spam, it may be a good idea to delete info@mydomainname in favor of information@mydomainname. We realize that this may be a tough decision, but such an action could be a huge benefit as it would immediately reduce -- if not entirely eliminate -- the amount of spam that you would be receiving at your e-mail address.
Please note: the information on this page applies to ITS web hosting plans. It may or may not apply to other environments. If you are looking for a feature described here, or better support from your hosting provider, please consider hosting your site with ITS!
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