If you rely on email, as so many people do, you need a way to stop spam emails before they make your inbox unusable. Spam is your enemy, and to defeat it, you need to understand it.
Stop Spam Email By Understanding How Spammers Make Money
“Why are spammers still in business?” you may often wonder. After all, who actually buys from them? Almost nobody—but almost nobody is still somebody. In 2008, researchers at the University of California found that as little as 1 in 12,000,000 spam emails results in a sale, but that’s enough for spammers who use illegal botnets.
If spammers can send 12 million emails for every sale, it becomes abundantly clear how your email inbox can be full of spam every morning. But only the least advanced spammers need to send 12 million messages for every sale—the more clever spammers know how to get past common spam filters.
People have been trying to stop spam emails since the late 1980s, but every time they make an advance, the spammers try to figure out how to get around it. For example, when spammers started selling Viagra, the spam filters tried to stop spam emails by throwing out emails containing the word “viagra” in the subject line, but the spammers started intentionally misspelling it as “v1agra” or “vigara”.
Spam filters keep getting more and more advanced so spammers are forced to either keep getting more advanced at evading them or to send more and more spam, hoping some will go to people with older, less advanced spam filters. For this reason, it’s very important to use a continually updated spam filter or the amount of spam you receive will quickly increase to an unbearable level.
Stop Spam Emails With A Bayesian Filter
The most effective technique to stop spam emails for over a decade now has been the naive Bayesian filter. Bayesian filters use Rev. Thomas Bayes (1702–1761) formula for calculating the probability a particular thing belongs to a category of things—for example whether a particular email belongs to the spam category of email.
The main advantage of Bayesian filters is that they can be trained by users, so they never get out of date like other spam-fighting techniques. Unfortunately, that’s also their greatest disadvantage, as some spammers attempt to use a technique called Bayesian poisoning to evade filters. You’ve seen Bayesian poisoning in action if you’ve ever received a long email full of legitimate quotes with a short sales pitch.
As Bayesian poisoning has not yet been very effective, a Bayesian filter remains one of the best simple spam fighting techniques. You can get it in many advanced email clients, but the best client I’ve seen with a built-in Bayesian filter is the free Mozilla Thunderbird. Be sure to keep your Thunderbird Bayesian filter updated by marking spam as “Spam” and not just deleting it.
Stop Spam Emails With A Webmail Account
Free webmail providers such as Google, Yahoo!, and Hotmail all receive millions of spam emails a day addressed to thousands of their customers, so they get to see larger spam trends before anyone else. Also, they all know that if they let through too many spam emails, they’ll lose customers to a competitor, so they have a vested interest to stop spam emails.
These providers also have dozens or hundreds of in-house system administrators and programmers who can implement advanced solutions to stop spam emails. For example, one way spammers try to get around the Bayesian filter used at Google is by including spam text in images embedded in the email, so Google wrote a program that extracts every large image sent to a GMail customer and runs it through Optical Character Recognition so its Bayesian filter can “read” images too. Few home users have the time or the resources to implement this level of sophistication to stop spam emails.
Again, the very thing that makes webmail spam filtering so effective also serves as its Achilles heal—so zealous are these large providers at protecting customers from spam that they often accidentally mark legitimate email as spam. Often this happens to users who receive newsletters, which look like spam because they get sent to hundreds or thousands of readers.
If you are really on the ball about your emails that you do not want to miss out on, you can always whitelist an email address, which ensures they get delivered to you.
Stop Spam Emails With A Dedicated Spam Blocking Service
The only type of company with more interest in stopping spam than a webmail company is a company that sells a service to stop spam emails. The first and perhaps best company in this field is SpamCop.net, which is now owned by Cisco Systems (the leading provider of network equipment powering the Internet).
SpamCop.net (note, not SpamCop.com which is a different company) offers a free service that lets you stop spam email by reporting spam to the ISPs that run email servers. It also offers a paid service that filters your email using a variety of techniques—including help from people who submitted free reports. It works with any email account and also gives you access to a backup webmail service in case your main email goes down.
Conclusion: What You Need To Do To Stop Spam Emails Today
If you’re receiving too much spam, it means your spam filter is out of date and that the problem will only get worse as spammers send more and more email to people like you. If you’re attached to your current email program, consider using a service like SpamCop.net to stop spam emails. If you’ve been meaning to try a different email program, look at Mozilla Thunderbird, which offers many great features besides spam blocking. If you’re ready to make the leap to webmail, then try Google GMail—right now it’s the best webmail provider at blocking spam.