Thursday, September 11, 2008

Keep your inbox junk free

Junk e-mail has become an important part of the digital economy. Once any profit making operation starts, it never stops. We shall never be completely rid of spam e-mail, but that doesn't mean we have to be buried under it. Fighting junk e-mail is an ongoing battle. This week I bring you some tips and thoughts for dealing with junk e-mail.

Choice of e-mail account. I have observed that large e-mail providers like GMail and Yahoo fare better at filtering spam than others. There's no magic technology there. A junk filter's success depends on it being able to analyse large volumes of e-mail, detecting common content being sent to multiple users. Being popular, GMail and Yahoo see many copies of the same junk mail delivered to its recipients. Selecting the most common e-mails by volume straightaway filters the junk. Smaller providers don't see as much volume coming in. GMail offers free mail download services (POP3 and IMAP) for those like me who prefer downloading their e-mail instead of reading it online.

Website hosting providers. If you have your own website or hosted e-mail account, make sure your service offers good spam filtering. I recommend Google Apps for personal websites and small businesses.

Weekly review of your Junk folder. Spammers keep finding methods to beat the filters, and in turn filters try and get smarter. For any junk filtering mechanism to work well, it needs to be corrected from time to time. Even with the best of junk filtering, I lose around 5 e-mails every week. I have to regularly fish them out of my junk folder and tell the mail service that those were not spam.

Do not give your e-mail address out frivolously. Maintain a second e-mail account for all non-work related services that require mandatory e-mail sign-ups.

Please do not forward chain e-mails. Chain e-mails are hoaxes. Letters such as Microsoft and AOL donating one cent per e-mail header for children dying of cancer, stories of someone's kidneys removed after being lured away from a party, or Ganesha and Saturn bringing good luck for seven forwards, are all untrue. Apart from wasting bandwidth and your friends' productivity, chain e-mails provide an excellent source of e-mail address lists for junk mail and telemarketing.

Further insights into battling spam, background on spammers and more can be found on the Cyberwatch blog at

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