Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/180604/htg-explains-why-is-spam-still-a-problem/
Bill Gates famously said “two years from now, spam will be solved” back in 2004. It’s now ten years later and more than 70% of emails are spam, according to Kaspersky. Why is spam still such a problem?
It's worth mentioning that spammers might even just buy a domain name and server, and just use the PHP
mail() function to send spam.
The real problem with these ideas is that they’re not compatible with the way email currently works. Microsoft can’t just change the way email works on their own — even if they changed the way Hotmail, Outlook, and Exchange handled emails, they’d still have to interoperate with all the other email services and servers out there. Microsoft would have had to convince an entire industry to move to a new standard for sending messages with these anti-spam features built in.
I think the writing has been on the wall for a long time. We need both stronger legislative action (as in, the blanket prohibition of UCE just like with UC Faxes) as well as a technological solution: some sort of challenge-response system or PIN code system, combined with certificate exchange for trusted senders and legitimate bulk senders. (Not all bulk mail is UCE, or spam.)
Sending an email to an individual recipient by another individual recipient should always be simple, but it should be impossible for someone to email even 100 people without permission.
I can think of several ways to block unsolicited mail, but they all involve infrastructure changes that ISP's as a whole may not be willing to take.
It's very simple :
only ever read an email from someone you know and whose email address you already know.
The chances of ANY unsolicited email actually being important to you are vanishingly small. ( Even if that email is NOT spam. )
And when you read an email the sender then knows your address actually
exists and so that address is circulated to every spammer on the planet.
( Yes, there are email settings that prevent this but seriously,
why bother looking them up ? I, for one, never have. )
The problem, @Frank64 , is when you get literally hundreds of spam messages a day. It's difficult to wade through dozens of messages and not miss something important. It's even more difficult when you expect to receive messages from people you don't know: at one point, I was on the board of a non-profit organization and dealt with a lot of legitimate email from strangers, many of whom were less literate than some of the disjointed spam messages we're seeing these days.
If it takes 5 seconds to accurately decide whether a message is spam, and you get 100 spam messages a day, that's a mere 8 minutes of your day wasted. Do that every day, however, and you're talking about 2 days out of your year spent doing nothing but dealing with:
- Enlarge your penis today!
- See the hottest stars F**** live on your screen!
- Hi, . I haven't seen you around lately. Wanna go out some time?
- Amazing opportunity! Deposed Nigerian prince needs your help...
For some reason, I've never got too many spam emails; on an average, it's about 30-40 emails in my spambox (no spam comes in my inbox), and most of it are just unwanted promotions from websites I registered on.
and most of it are just unwanted promotions from websites I registered on.
Yeah... those I hesitate to truly call spam. If I gave someone permission to email me, then that's my fault. But those are a small fraction of the ads I get.
Let's see: the top ads in my spam box:
- breast enlargement
- lottery scam
- Men's supplement (Make your lady cry out in joy every night)
- 4 ads in a row for on-line meds. All of them use different names and URL's.
- Some guy who won't stop sending me urban legends and extreme political viewpoints, even after requests not to. So I finally spam-binned him.
- Another medicinal goods store
- penis enlargement pills
- My bank. Oh crap, gmail is filtering messages from my bank as spam!
- 8 more pharma ads.
- Mossy Nissan. I actually requested a quote from them, then started getting email every couple of days. Google says "It's similar to messages that were detected by our spam filters", so I guess Google decided that they're spammy enough to spam-bin for me.
- Dennis Quaid, for Consumer Watchdog Campaign. He has my legit first name. So I must have filled out some form somewhere... probably a contest entry.
- OOh, look! The SourceForge monthly updates are now getting spam-binned. Once again, I actually signed up for those and wanted to receive them.
- Hmm. Blizzard just warned me that I'm trying to sell my WOW account. Interestingly enough, this one is MIME encoded, so it's a little harder to tear apart the source and see where the fake URL is actually going.
Wow! I just won a foreign lottery! I need to email email@example.com right now and get my winnings! Quick, where's my bank account number and legal ID?
One aspect of this debate which can make a significant difference in the amount of SPAM you receive is the method one uses to access their emails.
While more and more people use online accounts, such as gmail or Yahoo, to access their emails, many people (such as myself) still use a third-party email client to download and read their mail offline.
In order to prevent SPAM, I use a fabulous program called Mailwasher Pro.
The program acts similar to a firewall, and requires an initial learning period. You have a "Friends List" and a "Black List" and over time, kit learns who is who. The program shows you all your mail while it's still on the server, giving you the option to selectively accept or delete any email. It automatically views any new sender as "Possible Spam" until you tell it otherwise.
There's a free version; however the pro version has many more features, as you might expect.
Anyway -- after using Mailwasher Pro for the past six years or so, I almost NEVER get any Spam anymore. And I mean I may see less than ten SPAM emails over the course of a year.
On the other hand -- My Yahoo Spambox receives about eight-to-ten emails on a daily basis.
While we can certainly complain about and blame the people who are responsible for generating the SPAM, I would submit that it's also the user's responsibility to take a few pro-active steps on their own behalf.
You might say, "Why should I have to download, install, pay for, and spend my valuable time dealing with this when I'm not the one responsible?"
But, if you stop to think about it, we're alos not responsible for the viruses, malware, crapware, etc which intrudes on our computing life every day -- and yet we spend our time and money taking the time to ensure we are protected against those intrusions...so why not do the same for SPAM - which, in my humble pinion, is much easier to control for the home user.
We're already doing that. Spam control costs US companies and consumers millions, if not billions, of dollars each year.
The problem is that spam is almost invariably linked to unethical or illegal business practices. At least 75% of the spam I receive is for foreign drug sales, scams of some sort, or attempts to learn confidential information. All of these are illegal activities and should be protected against.
The real problem is that, as I mentioned previously, no method of spam detection is perfect, and as more stuff gets spam-binned, more innocent email gets caught up as false positives. I should never miss an alert from my bank because of spam filtering, yet I found 3 in my spam folder just today.
Virus and malware protection aren't perfect, either. For example, tools to root or jailbreak smartphones are flagged and removed by anti-malware tools. Turns out that these tools can be used for evil as well as for good. So whenever I download a tool to work on a smart device, I have to disable my anti-virus software. By the same token, when I want to receive a file from a co-worker by email, I have to go to extreme measures to get it through our company's email firewall.
So, in the end, proper spam control is just like every other system we use to protect our computers and our privacy: it needs some Human control and interaction to be effective.
To prevent spam, I use Gmail.
Considering my email addresses are publicly available on web pages all over the place, I get almost no spam in my inbox.
I do, however, get hundreds of emails a day from PR firms and such, many of which get auto-filtered into the trash.
Right where 90% of it belongs, right?
I had no idea Gmail had a strong anti-spam element.
I go back to Outlook Express from my days on XP and switched to Windows Live Mail when I moved up to Windows 7.
The good thing about Mailwasher Pro is that over time, the amount of Spam I see in my primary inbox has slowed to an almost-imperceptible trickle. I don't have a spam box or junk folder - I just have stopped receiving spam almost entirely in my ISP mail server.
Using Mailwasher Pro, I could blacklist your email address - or the entire HTG domain for that matter, and all mail from those sources would be deleted off the server before I ever see them.
Of course, I always have the option to change my mind and remove you from the blacklist at any time.
Honestly, GMail's spam filter is the best thing about it. Yes, I like the UI, and yes it's fast... but the spam filter has been second to none for a decade now.
The only problem is that people are abusing it: people hit "this is spam" for legit emails that they've signed up for, rather than properly unsubscribe. This is creating more false positives than I'd like. However, you can easily whitelist addresses.
I've heard of Mailwasher in the past, but I've grown pretty attached to my gmail....
And I guess that's the gist of it really.
I've never used Gmail, primarily because I still use the email accounts provided by my ISP. We can have up to five separate accounts, all under one major user account. I have my phone configured to receive emails for my primary account, which is the one I use for my most important contacts.
Since I have an android phone, I did have to set up a Gmail account by default, however the only time I've really needed it so far is to purchase a couple of apps from the Play Store.
I imagine I'll give it a try at some point -- but you know...I have some friends who still use their AOL and Earthlink accounts for their primary email.
It's difficult to wade through dozens of messages and not miss something important.
But you are specifically referring to business users
while I ( without even realising it at the time ) was talking about PERSONAL users.
I get roughly 50-100 spam messages a day on my personal email account, one that has never been used in business.
So I'm talking about both.
Obviously your experience is very different from mine.
Maybe you email far more people than I do ?
Don't laugh, but my own email account is with Yahoo.
Say what you like about them ( and I still cannot stand their latest 'redesign' )
but in terms of spam detection I simply cannot fault them.
Spam goes straight into the Spam folder. And not just in theory.
Nowadays I get about 1 spam per day in there.
In the past year or so I can only remember a single false positive
( an email deemed spam that actually was not ).
And I cannot remember the last time a spam got into my Inbox.
( Though it DOES happen every couple of years or so. )
And I do not think that would change even if I emailed far more people.
I have used Mailwasher for years. Was a beta-tester for it many years ago. The way I handle Gmail with Mailwasher: I have Gmal configured to forward to my ISP POP3 account, check it with Mailwasher, then download to Thunderbird. Haven't actually logged in on the Gmail website in ages.
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