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As the volume of spam increases, I believe that the email industry will ramp up their technologies to help continue to make email manageable for folks like you and me.

Currently, I get 50-75 spams a day. I can quickly scan my junk mail folder and retrieve occasional misplaced legitimate email. Today, spam is only an annoyance, but given the number of potential spammers and the ability of computers to generate spam, it may not be long before I'm getting 500 - 750 spams a day. What will happen if it goes to 5000 - 7500 spams a day? Is that an unreasonable fear? I don't think so. I would have no ability to deal with that level of attack. It would ruin the reliability of email. Do you know of anything being done at the industry level to effectively address this?

In this excerpt from Answercast #68, I look at the ever-increasing threat of email spam.

Too much spam!

To be honest, I'm not worried about getting the 5000-7500 level of spams a day.

Yes, there are definitely opportunities for more and more spammers to get into the business. Generating spam via computers is very easy. This has been going on for years, and years, and years. I mean, spam is nothing new; spam has been around for almost as long as email now; you know, I'd say at least a couple of decades. There are definitely both sides to the equations.

Spammers are constantly coming up with new techniques and ways of generating spam. But the spam-fighting industry (and absolutely, there is one) is constantly looking at ways to prevent spam, to block spam, to keep it from annoying us.

Good spam filters

The best thing you can do is to invest in or use a system that has a good spam filter. It's one of the reasons that I actually route all of my email through Google's Gmail. Gmail actually has one of the better spam filters that I'm aware of. In other words, it does a very good job of deciphering what should be spam (that gets shuffled off to the Spam folder) and what should not be (that shows up in my inbox.)

Like any spam-filtering solution, there are occasional mismatches. I do occasionally have to grab something out of the spam folder and I do occasionally have to mark something as spam (something that made it to my inbox), but by and large, that's the most effective way to deal with this.

As the volume of spam increases, or rather if the volume of spam increases to the level that you're concerned about, I really do believe that the industry in general (which basically boils down to the email service providers like Gmail, like Hotmail, like Yahoo, like many others) will definitely also ramp up their technologies to help continue to make email more manageable for folks like you and me.

Article C6008 - November 8, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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7 Comments
Arlene
November 9, 2012 8:24 AM

When you say "route your email through Google's Gmail," what do you mean? Are you saying you forward other email messages to Google?

Actually, one of the related articles linked to above, below the article, is this one is How do I route my email through Gmail? - that should clear it up.
Leo
10-Nov-2012

Mark J
November 9, 2012 9:32 AM

@Arlene
There are two ways to route your emails through GMail. One, as you mentioned, would be to forwarded the email. Another would be to have GMail import the email from your other account via POP3 by clicking on the gear icon in GMail and selecting settings. On the settings page click "Accounts and import" Under "Check mail from other accounts (using POP3)" click "Add a POP3 mail account you own" and follow the instructions.

bill
November 9, 2012 10:00 AM

@Arlene Look through Leo's archives - he has written about how to do this in the past.

Basicaly you create a gmail account. If your main mail account is though your ISP (internet service provider), I will also recommend that you start telling people to use the gmail account address to send you mail (more on why later).

Then you tell gmail to get your mail from whatever provider you are now using and tell your mail reader program (assuming that you are not using web mail) to get the mail from gmail. If you are using a web mail program, then you just start using gmail's web interface.

What that does is take any mail that you get at your current account, runs it through gmail's filters, and then gives it to you.

I recommend (if you are using an ISP specific account like arlenewhatever@comcast.com) to start moving people over to your gmail address because someday, you may get tired of your ISP and their email will go away instantly if you change to someone else. By using a gmail (or other generic one like hotmail), you continue receiving your mail regardless of what ISP you use to connect to the internet.

Actually, I have gone a step farther and purchased my own domain, which is fairly cheap. All mail sent to xxxx@domainname.us will be sent to my gmail account. As long as I pay the annual fee for my domain, my address (and I can have as many as I want) will be mine and I can send the mail anywhere I want. If I ever get tired of gmail (I doubt that I will, it is just that good), I can just tell the domain company where to send my mail.

bill
November 9, 2012 10:03 AM

The only additional feature I would like for google to add to their gmail is a two tier approach for filtering.
All spam filters look at various things in the email and give them a score from 0 to spam. I would like to see gmail allow you to set a tolerance level so that things that are questionable as spam can be delivered with a header change to identify them. It woiuld let me find the good messages easier and without having to log into the web interface.

John Sproul
November 9, 2012 10:55 AM

Hi Leo,
Would this work in fighting spam? Have internet providers charge a very modest fee (like one penny) per note sent. Most senders would have a modest bill each month, but someone sending a million e-mails might be priced out.

James
November 9, 2012 12:46 PM

What works for me is the filter I set up in Thunderbird. Basically, if the sender is not in my address book (contacts), then mark the email as spam.

Mark J
November 9, 2012 1:48 PM

@John
I read about something like that idea over 10 years ago. The suggested price was even as low as 1/10 of a cent. It seemed like a good idea. Maybe it couldn't be enforced internationally. And with spam bots, the cost would go to the victims who were hacked.

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