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Spam! Spam! December 1, 2006

Posted by gordonwatts in computers, physics life.

I am now getting close to 200 bits of spam a day. Email is a crucial tool for me; one of the only disconnected communication tools I have. The only other one – the phone with the answering machine – just doesn’t work any longer. But the spam is out of hand!

I have a great spam-catcher, but with the current onslaught of spam I have to have it set to a high enough setting that it inevitably catches real email. This is always embarrassing. 🙂

When I explained to John Hobbs why I’d missed some of his emails (a bit embarrassing when he is the over-all physics coordinator of the whole experiment) he replied:

As an (after-the-fact) amusing aside, I switched mailers a couple of months ago and discovered that the treatment of spam rules was different. In particular, the filter strings could be partial words in the new mailer, not just full words as previously. So, my old filters imported in the new mailer were marking as spam anything with “analysis” in the subject. (You can figure out the substring…)

But seriously. At what point to these spammers make email useless? I spend more and more of my time dealing with this! I can’t shut off email; there is nothing else (IM is only rarely an option). It is no wonder that the younger generation has abandoned email for IM. I believe the only time they use it is to talk to old folks…



1. Ambitwistor - December 1, 2006

Maybe you should try a different filter? I’m getting about 50 spams per day now, but at its height when I was getting about 150, my SpamBayes filter did fine; it would let through about five per day tops, and usually less. Every once a while a genuine e-mail ends up in the “unsure” folder (not the spam folder), which is easy to deal with since the unsure folder is not large; it only happens once every few months anyway.

One thing you may need to do is retrain from scratch periodically; the filter adapts slowly to changing spam “demographics”, so you can benefit from training it only on relatively recent spam.

2. Dick Thompson - December 2, 2006

Does anybody know of a mail system where your spam and phish filter rules can be defined with regular expressions? You know, where bits of forbidden text can be separated by an undetermined number (or a determined one) of unexamined spaces. And so on.

3. Aaron F. - December 2, 2006

As a young folk, I can say with authority the we do use e-mail occasionally. 🙂 The main weakness of IM is that it’s hard to predict when people are going to be online, so if you have a time-sensitive message like “OMFG tally hall is playing at the blind pig TOMORROW o_O ^_^, 😀 😀 :D”, you run the risk of never getting in touch. A better strategy is to send an e-mail, which, at this school, the recipient is guaranteed to check approximately 500 times a day. As a bonus, an e-mail is relatively permanent compared to an IM, which gets deleted once you close it. (Because nobody uses chat loggers. Ever.)

I can also say that it is possible to get spammed via IM, but exceedingly rare… in my entire life, I’ve only seen it once. The nice thing about IM is that you can warn or block misbehaving users, so spammers probably get booted pretty fast. In addition, unlike an e-mail’s sender address, a screen name is, as far as I know, impossible to fake. That means once you get kicked off the internet, it takes more effort to get yourself a new name.

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