Preventing spam

I wanted to explain how to prevent spam in this entry, but at the same time explain the spam-filtering technology you should adopt if you didn’t know about it already. Most people I know want to block senders so they don’t get spam from that person anymore.

Disclaimer: I tried to be neat with all this information, but I think I failed quite miserably. (Insert nervous chuckle here.) In any case, I wanted to pass along the basic information of spam and prevention, and I felt this did an adequate job.

Spammers don’t come from just one email address. They can fake their address every time they send, as long as they get their ad out. You can’t just create thousands of filters – that’s inefficient. Bayesian spam filtering is the “new” technology now in the fight against spam-laden email accounts. (Not exactly new, but it still isn’t ubiquitous as most of us think.) It’s tough to just switch email accounts, especially if you have a lot of contacts.

Don’t let then get into your inbox. Rather, filter them out so it’s easier to delete. If you use a POP email client, I used to use K9 for my filtering needs since it was free and did the job fairly accurately. Gmail has its own filters that have been very, very accurate for me. Yahoo was pretty good, too. Those two webmail providers are examples that most likely implement Bayesian-type spam filtering.

Another thing about keeping them out of your inbox is that spammers are using devious methods to confirm your email address by embedding spam beacons. When you read the email, and its images are displayed, they “phone home” and let the spammer know your email address is valid. That’s why Yahoo and Gmail don’t display images in email by default.

Having my own website, it’s been nice to have forwarders. I only have one main email account, as opposed to multiple accounts. The forwarders are email addresses that forward to my main email account. So, I use the forwarders until they get spammed too much – then I delete them.

For most people that don’t have websites, just don’t post your email address anywhere. Google spiders almost everything, and spambots can harvest your email address if you post it in plain text.

If your company or place of vocation has a website that posts your email address, make sure they either use a contact form, or encode your email address. I say that because where I volunteer, the email addresses weren’t encoded, and I know that they all got spammed. The webmaster encoded it after I told him, but it’s already too late – those email addresses are in the spammer databases.

Here are some articles you should probably cross-reference, to comment on the suggestions I’ve given here:

Two Simple Steps to Spam-Proof Your Website

Spamproof Your Site (Sitepoint)

Spam Bots, And How To Avoid Them

The one thing that did stand out to me is that “munging” your email address on your website probably won’t do any good. (i.e. example [at] example [dot] com). Before reading the article, it seemed only logical that spam bots were probably already programmed to take an email address written like this and rewriting it the way it should be.

I’m glad I never gave out my email address on my site like that. No, really…look at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine of versions back to 2002. I either had the forwarders displayed, or a contact form.

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. He's also a cat whisperer. Sometimes…a photographer, and card magician.

4 thoughts on “Preventing spam”

  1. God… The amount of SPAM going through my blog is insane to say the least.

    So I made it so any comment with more then 0 links would have to be moderated first to be shown…

    Now their just making their site the same as what was in the SPAM message. UGH!

    I might make it so only registered users can post, but I don’t want to do that…

    I sure as hell am not going to take my blog out of Google though – Some of my entries have some decent spots…


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