Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Skinny on Getting Rid of Spam

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Skinny on Getting Rid of Spam

Article excerpt

PERSONAL COMPUTING

Imagine every time you pick up the phone when it rings to have to listen to a half dozen ads before you talk. This is becoming the situation with e-mail today.

Spam - unsolicited commercial e-mail messages - bombards us everyday, sapping both patience and productivity. Most of us spend at least 10 minutes each day dealing with spam at work and home, according to a recent survey commissioned by software utility maker Symantec. What bothers us the most is the thought of our children receiving pornographic email.

Meanwhile, the volume of spam continues to rise, as hucksters pitch porn sites, pyramid schemes, quack health remedies, online casinos, mortgage refinancing, and so on.

With the federal governwent largely on the sidelines, and with Internet-service providers typically offering at best only partial solutions, many computer users are taking matters into their own hands. They're using technology to tackle the problem.

Just as you need anti-virus software to keep from losing data and a firewall to keep your data private if you have high-speed "always on" Internet access, many people feel that you now need spam-filtering software as well.

These programs do what you can do manually with many e-mail programs - filter out messages that include subject lines such as "Make Money Fast." But specialized spamblocking programs also analyze incoming email using sophisticated rules that look for many other tell-tale signs that a message is spam.

One important caveat with all spam-filtering software is that none are perfect. All let some spam through, and - most importantflag as spam a small percentage of legitimate e-mails.

Fortunately these programs typically let you view the "From" addresses and subject lines of messages it flags. During the first couple of weeks at least in working with a program, you should do this, then instruct it to stop blocking e-mail from people you know are not spammers.

Spam-filtering programs used to be a cottage industry, with entrepreneurs offering solutions. These programs are still around and can be effective. But, smelling money, the big boys have entered the spam-fighting game, including utility giants Symantec Corp. and McAfee Security, a division of Network Associates Inc.

Symantec's newly released Norton Internet Security 2003 , a suite of online security and privacy utility programs that costs $69.95, now includes the spam-filtering program Norton Spam Alert. Testing indicates it does a decent if not perfect job. …

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