Readers cook spam

I wrote in my April 29 column that Windows users can stop spam by suing the advertisers. This created a wave of feedback from readers. I'm happy to share with you some of their good ideas.

I wrote in my April 29 column that Windows users can stop spam by suing the advertisers (see Sue a spammer today). The laws of states such as California and Washington provide fines up to $US1000 per unsolicited message. This call created a wave of feedback from readers. I'm happy to share with you some of their good ideas.

Until spammers have been sued out of existence, reader Bob Meyer was the first of several readers to propose MailWasher. It uses heuristic analysis to rate emails as probable spam or viruses, and allows you to bounce back messages as though your email address no longer exists. (To reduce traffic, I suggest you just delete spam, but that's up to you.) The program is free, although its author, Nick Bolton, accepts registrations "as low as $US3 or as high as you wish" in return for an anti-spam guide.

Brian Ewbank nominates SpamGourmet.com, a free service with a very clever idea. In its simplest mode, you create temporary addresses that will stop accepting email messages after a specified number.

For example, you could give out the address temp.20.brian@spamgourmet.com and never receive more than 20 replies. In advanced mode, you can define addresses or whole domains that can send you mail without incrementing the count.

Those suggestions are fine for individuals, but corporate email servers require more juice. Reader Olaf Berli describes his company's solution.

"We're running our own mail server, InterChange from Infinite Technologies," Berli writes. "There's an add-on to this mail server called WebClean (www.lan-aces.com). When a message comes in, WebClean checks the sender against databases of blacklisted servers. It then checks if the sender matches a local list of blocked senders and IP addresses. Finally, any attachments are scanned for viruses. One of the 'extras' this solution gives us is that WebClean configures our own mail server so that it won't relay spam from others." Berli says this product has reduced spam in his network by more than 90%.

Jorge Castro worked out his own remedy that's more suitable for high-volume ISPs and Unix servers than Windows users, but it seems to be an effective fix.

"I've found the solution to the spam problem can be found in open source," Castro writes. "I've recently set up spamassassin, postfix and procmail on an old K6 I had lying around. Spamassassin has eliminated 95% of my spam. It even uses Vipul's Razor to do heuristics on spams and filter them." Vipul's Razor tracks spam that's bounced by ISPs and others, blocking millions of other, identical messages.

I'll continue with more tips next week.

Send tips to Livingston. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.

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