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By: Wilson Rook firstname.lastname@example.org
As a 4 year veteran hometown ISP, I have learned a lot about e-mail. Over the
past few weeks, I have learned more about e-mail, e-mail terrorism, and e-mail counter
E-mail, at its most basic form, is a collection of keystrokes that can be recreated
on the screen of any connected computer in the world. E-mail is a modern day telegram.
"Have received the funds, will ship today, expect delivery on Friday.",
is a very quick status update for ebay traders. The electronic telegram contributed
to the demise of the pony express with same day messages such as "Bank notes
received, expect delivery to Arizona Territory by Fall". In some cases, e-mail
is delivered on paper by a courier (or family member), however, most e-mail is typed
and submitted by the author and received and decoded by the recipient. As an ISP,
I am simply a lineman with no knowledge of what actually travels across this new
strange copper and light that we call the Internet. E-mail is fast, cheap, simple,
and ... did I say fast? ... yes it is very fast.
With all powerful technologies come diversified use. One use of the 22nd century
telegram is to Send Phenomenal Amounts Of Mail (SPAM) or Unsolicited Bulk E-mail
(UBEM) [this acronym does not lend itself to use in lyrics like the famed canned
ham product does]. Spam is the result of simplicity and cost. The ability to
put a message on anyone's screen must be a dream come true for advertisers. Whether
you're in the comfort of your own home or at the office researching products, SPAM
turns your Internet surfing into a cheap network commercial break on late night
TV. This great task is accomplished at a very low cost to the sender.
The best counter attack to misused technology is better counter technology, organization,
and cooperation. Junk Spy has values in all three of these areas. As discussed further
below, Junk Spy uses computers to automate the distribution of database updates
of junk e-mail characteristics. Junk Spy users can submit samples of junk mail to
Sundial for evaluation and inclusion in database updates. Like computer virus and
anti-virus programs, spam is a dynamic target. Any solution to prevent unsolicited
e-mail will be circumvented tomorrow. Sundial's Junk/noJunk e-mail procedure promotes
cooperation of many users to identify and submit spam to a central clearing house.
Let's Get Technical
Sundial's approach to junk mail is very comprehensive. In my prior
article, I addressed the general problem of junk mail as well as the second
generation problems that can be caused by the solution to the first problem, misidentification
of good mail. I have been running Junk Spy for over a month. For two weeks, the
program ran using all its default parameters. Junk Spy was used for the next two
weeks with the first database update, customization and participation as a contributor.
With these changes, I increased the effectiveness of my personal battle against
In the first two weeks, Junk Spy identified 69 e-mails as junk mail. There were
a few that should not have been marked as junk mail.
The marked mail included: Jade Search Smart, Rodopi Software, email@example.com,
Brent Blare, Abel McClendon, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Real Player
Jade Search Smart - I'm on their list but I don't remember requesting to receive
it. I don't read it even though some of the titles look interesting. I had previously
decided not to try to stop this mail. If I ever have a slow day, I'll read some
of these. This should not be marked as junk mail.
Rodopi Software - Oh no! This one cost me $150. Yes, really. It was my own fault.
I knew I should be reviewing the junk pile every day or so. This should not be marked
as Junk Mail.
email@example.com - Hey, this one is from me. The following header print data
shows on line 3 that the mail was received from an IP address of 209.211... This
is not me. I'm a 216.111... type of guy. The next few lines show the smtp server
info. The from and reply to show my address. I do send my self e-mail at times.
It is a way to get info into my e-mail. This mail is not from me and very well should
have been listed as junk. The last 4 lines in the following header is the result
of Junk Spy at work. With information, PM Mail is able to sort the identified junk
mail to my junk folder. Good spy job.
Brent Blare - I don't know who this is. I know to just delete it. Now Junk Spy
is doing it for me. Good spy job.
Abel McClendon - Oops, this is firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll have to find the
fix for this one. I know this problem has already been addressed. This should not
be marked as junk mail.
email@example.com - This is a no brainer. Good spy job.
Real Player News - I know I did tell real networks that they could send me mail.
I'm not upset that junk spy trashed this one. Good spy job.
I have only listed a few items above. The other 69 were all junk. I also had
a number of e-mails that did not get listed as junk. At this point, Junk Spy was
not working optimally. It required a more aggressive approach than a simple static
The next task was to update Junk Spy and tune it to my needs. My first concern
was the e-mail from Rodopi Software. I opened the missorted e-mail in my junk mail
folder. I selected to view the e-mail "Full Header". In PM Mail, I did
this by clicking on the menu item "Window" and then "View Full Header".
The reason for the filter was shown at the end of the header in the "X-"
section. Two "X-Comment"s told why and where action was taken to mark
this as junk. The first comment stated "X-Comment: Found MASS E-MAIL in entire
message". On review of my e-mail, I found the paragraph:
"... Gee, if you have 10,000 customers and you send one mass e-mail to all
of them and only two percent respond you will generate enough profit from domain
registrations to buy your Rodopi."
While other information in the message was of value to me, this statement that
promotes "mass e-mail" is very offending. I don't want to change my settings,
but you may. The next line in the header stated "X-Comment: For more information
see "Junk Mailers" detector." Now I know where to make the change.
In the small Junk Spy window, Click on the Trash Can icon and then click on "Junk
Spy", then on "Detectors...". The last of 4 items in the list was
"Junk Mailers", which I highlighted and then clicked on the "Modify"
button. Near the top of the list I found "MASS E-MAIL (All)", which I
highlighted and clicked on the "Modify" button. The next page gave me
two options to apply the search to the e-mail To, From, Subject, Body, Header fields
or the entire message. An "Unless" option was also provided. To test this
"Unless:" field, I typed "Long Live OS/2" in the field. I sent
two e-mail messages to myself as shown below. Only one message had the second line
in the body. The Long Live OS/2 message was placed in my inbox while the other message
was marked as junk mail.
The Jade Search Smart, Brent Blare, and firstname.lastname@example.org had
similar valid reasons to filter based on the "Junk Mailers" detector.
The primary use of the "Junk Mailer" detector is to search for key phrases
that are very often contained in general junk mail.
email@example.com had a "Buy My Product" detector alert. As
the name indicates, this detector looks for key phrases that would be found in a
hard sale "Buy My Product" detector.
The infamous Valentine's Day/Secret Admirer e-mail from last month's article
contained phrases picked up by the "Adult Content" detector. The fourth
standard detector searches on phrases found in "Get Rich" junk mail.
The detectors use a very simple approach of searching for phrases and keywords
that are contained in junk mail. You can disable, delete, edit, or create new detectors.
The detectors work very much the same way that the filters work in PM Mail. Junk
Spy's advantage is that it provides a pre-compiled list and the test search engine
to back it up. The Detection Update Center will also provide a simple and automatic
way to update the list. PM Mail's filters compliment Junk Spy by adding the ability
to perform complex filter evaluation of marked junk mail.
Here is another e-mail that I do want to receive. The Abel McClendon e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)
had MEMBERS@ in the header and was filtered by the "Junk Mailers" detector.
This needs to be corrected. There are many ways to do this. The Members@ can be
deleted from the "Junk Mailers" detector. Or, @os2voice.org can be added
as an exception to "Unless:" field on the MEMBERS@ Clue Definition. A
Global Exception for @os2voice.org can be added as a new Clue Definition. I would
like to keep the protection of the Members@ clue, so I don't want to delete this
item. Adding and exception in the "Unless:" field of the MEMBERS@ clue
would work, however, the list is long and I did not want to spend the time finding
it. A search option to find the clue would be a helpful future addition to Junk
I chose to add a Global Exception for any mail containing the term os2voice.org
in any part of the e-mail. This will create a much broader exception for any e-mail
containing os2voice.org. I could also have limited the exemption to the from field.
The email@example.com from me that is not from me, and the Real Player News had
addresses listed in the "Relay Spam Stopper" detector.
With the above simple changes, I continued to use Junk Spy. I now have my normal
inbox, with child inboxes for Inet.Mail, PMMail, and WarpCast mailing lists from
my prior PM Mail configuration. I also have my new junk mail box. My junk mail box
contains 46 new messages, all junk. I have received about as many messages in my
normal inbox that should have been filtered as junk mail. Many of these were forwarded
to Sundial for Evaluation. I look forward to the next update and improved detectors.
One of the benefits of the Internet is the ability to receive information from
many sources in an inexpensive and very manageable manner. Junk Spy is designed
to eliminate mail that uses the same procedure to distribute unwanted mail. Without
recognition of the daunting task, it is very hard to appreciate Junk Spy. With proper
use of Junk Spy, and Sundial's Junk/NoJunk review process, the detectors will continue
to improve. Like the war on drugs, brute force only works so far. The real solution
is to eliminate the desire or demand for the product. Comprehensive use of products
like Junk Spy will eventually result in decreased effectiveness and desire of junk
Junk Spy uses public data bases such as the Real Time Black Hole and the Relay
Spam Stopper lists. Junk Spy also uses its own database. All three of these databases
are living, ever changing archives. To support Sundial's efforts, spam or junk mail
that is missed by Junk Spy's detectors can be forwarded to Junk@sundialsystems.com.
Before you send just any junk mail, could this be mail that you requested (or forgot
to unchecked a box on a web site that said "Keep me informed of new products")?
If the mail is from a legitimate mailer, your best bet is to unsubscribe. Some of
you may consider the Voice Mail list to be Junk mail - it is not. It is simple to
unsubscribe to most mailing lists by just sending a reply e-mail with unsubscribe
in the subject and/or body. Most legitimate newsletters have the unsubscribe information
on the bottom of every message. By legitimate, I am referring to real companies
such as HP, Real Networks, Postmaster.com that received your address through legitimate
means. It is much better to unsubscribe from repeat unwanted e-mails than to rely
on Junk Spy. First, the bandwidth is still wasted as your computer does still have
to download the file. Second, your Junk Mail Folder will contain fewer items to
review, and third, you do not want to cause a legitimate company to be blacklisted.
Will Junk Spy do it all? No, not at this time and I don't ever think it will.
"All", as in 100% is a very tall order. I believe that clearing 1/2 the
junk is a very very good place to start. Junk Spy is a tool that we need to learn
to use. It is a new tool, the only one of its kind, that Sundial is learning to
build. Junk Spy users need to be responsible and assist Sundial in building the
Junk Mail Database with submittals of Spam. "Just Unsubscribe", when that
is an option. For true Spam, we must rely on databases and filtering - We must rely
on Junk Spy for our e-mail counter terrorism.
Other Reading on Spam include.
Coping with SPAM: Should You Try to Unsubscribe?
SPAM - What can I do??
Internet FAQs Spamming
Your can reduce Unwanted Mail [This site refers to snail mail - but the logic is the same]
JunkBUSTERS Junk Email Headlines - Spamming must be stopped"
For more on Junk Spy see Sundial's site - http://www.sundialsystems.com/junkspy/index.html
Junk Spy can be ordered directly from Sundial Systems for $49, which includes
one year of detection database updates.
PMMail/2 also mentioned in this article is a product of Blueprint Software Works
Inc. - http://www.blueprintsoftware.com/