Home Office: Latest Tricks for Fighting Spam

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I thought I'd finished writing about spam. But I've had a flood of e-mail from readers complaining that, like California's new actor-cum-governor, it's back.

In this week's newsletter I'll show you some new spam fighting tricks, point you to an inexpensive e-book with innovative spam bashing ideas, get you up to speed on spam news, and report on what the lawmakers are doing to reduce spam.
Spam Hits the Fan

The stats on how people are responding to in-box clogging junk mail are astonishing. Almost half of the people surveyed for a recent report said that they actually have trouble finding legit e-mail because it's buried in so much spam. Man, I can relate to that. A third of those surveyed find their in-boxes filled with almost 80 percent spam. There's lots more about the survey results in "Could Spam Kill Off E-Mail?"

Some good news: ISPs, the companies that supply you with bandwidth, are beefing up their attacks on spam. For instance, EarthLink has added SpamBlocker to its arsenal of spam fighting tools. While not every subscriber knows about it (I didn't), SpamBlocker is a "challenge-response system" that grabs the lapels of every message you receive, checks to see if the sender is in your address book, and rejects it if the answer is no. E-mail can pass into your in-box only if the sender is able to answer a simple question. Take two minutes and read "ISPs Rev Up Antispam Efforts" for details.

Quick aside: I use Trillian for instant messaging. My IM list is short, maybe twenty people (and no, you can't have my IM name). It's spam-free and secure, with the ability to encrypt IM messages. That's because I installed IMSecure, a relatively new product from Zone Labs that works with most IM programs. If you have kids, it's ideal--you can control features such as file transfers, voice, and video chats. Read more about what IMSecure does in "Zone Labs Unveils Messaging Security," then grab a trial version of the $20 IMSecure Pro. You could also try the free version, IMSecure 1.0.

Dig This: It's too late for Halloween pranks, but there's plenty of time to prepare a delicious Kitty Litter Cake for your Thanksgiving guests. Among other things, the recipe calls for Tootsie Rolls. My wife, Judy, nixed the idea until I helped her visualize Aunt Sally's reaction--so we tried a test batch in the Bass Int'l kitchen.
Legislating Against Spam

You can probably guess which way I lean politically, but no way is it going to interfere with cheering on the Washington politicos who are going after spammers. The very good news is that the U.S. Senate is putting new pressure on spammers. It's approved--unanimously, no less--letting local governments and ISPs sue junk e-mailers who try to sidestep new antispamming restrictions. This is a big deal, folks, and I encourage you to read about it in "Senate Squashes Spam."

Funny thing is, it's not only U.S. politicians who are finally taking action again junk e-mail. The Brits are also kvetching; they've taken their complaints to Parliament. But things between the two countries get a little sticky because the UK prefers an opt-in approach while we in the colonies want an opt-out approach. There's more to the story, but you're going to have to read "Britain Urges United States to Can Spam" to find out.

For some disheartening news, read "Antispam Activists Win (and Lose) in Court," in which Dan Tynan explains how antispam activists got nailed in court trying to put the brakes on alleged spammer EMarketersAmerica.org. It's not a pretty story, but one I think you need to read.

Dig This: Are you stuck cutting down a few backyard trees and want to get through the job quickly? Try a V8 chain saw. (The MPEG video is 4MB.)
Spam Fighting at its Best

Does the word phishing mean anything to you? It's the art of baiting an e-mail hook and reeling in details about you that can lead to identity theft. Tom Spring, aka Spam Slayer, is PCWorld.com's white-hat spam expert. In his weekly column he shows you the latest ways to make mincemeat of spam. For instance, in "Spam Slayer: Outsmart Scammers," Tom tells you about e-bogus mail that can take you to the cleaners and how to authenticate messages to protect yourself.

The most intriguing article I've read on spam recently comes from our Internet Tips guy, Scott Spanbauer. Scott's excited about SpamBayes, an open-source, aggressive spam fighting plug-in for Microsoft Outlook 2000 and 2002. Scott says, "If you use Outlook, drop everything and get SpamBayes." The product's free--and if Scott likes it, it's got to be good.

Some of you may want to attack spam from another angle. Brian Livingston's downloadable e-book, "Spam-Proof Your E-Mail Address" ($10), explains how you can reduce spam substantially with a little fiddling. I think Brian's chapter on debunking spam myths and his detailed, step-by-step instructions for making clickable links that are encoded in such a way that harvesters can't decode are worth the price of admission.

credits:Steve Bass
7:04 PM

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