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Mailbag: Spam hits Washington

May 12, 20033 mins

* Spam thoughts and spam tools

Last week, we discussed new state laws and proposed federal laws designed to outlaw the distribution of mass, unsolicited e-mails. That newsletter sparked interest from some readers who aren’t convinced that such laws would really make a difference.

“All the laws that politicians can muster up won’t stop spam. It will just migrate offshore,” says one reader.

The reader makes a good point that U.S. laws would not protect Internet users from spam that originates from overseas. But his point also assumes that many spammers have the ability to move overseas. The fact is that it doesn’t take a lot to set-up an e-mail server but not all spammers have the resources to move their operations to other countries.

He goes on to say, “I see nothing at all progressive about the government finding ways to take my hard earned money and applying it to useless government programs. Can you imagine the size of the system that would be required to deal with spam?”

But as I pointed out last week, at least the government is trying to do something. While I don’t know if these laws would deter spammers, if they help to reduce the amount of unsolicited e-mail even by 25% overall, I’d be happy.

Several other readers pointed to software products available that help filter out spam. These are useful and in some cases could provide critical support to e-mail servers at any business. Network World has a filter deployed and yet individual users still receive much spam a day.

Setting up filtering parameters is difficult dance for many IT folks. Filtering e-mails based on key words sometimes results in legitimate e-mail not getting through. And supporting more lenient filtering parameters results in an over abundance of spam delivered to individuals throughout an organization.

One of my colleagues recommended a tool that has been working very well for me. The product called SpamNet is from Cloudmark and it’s free ( The tool filters out spam and puts it in a standard folder that sits right next to your sent mail and inbox folders for Microsoft Outlook users.

What I like about this tool is that it doesn’t delete any e-mails. You can scan the filtered messages in the spam folder to be sure nothing that you actually want to receive was tagged as spam.

In a 24-hour period SpamNet filtered out more than 50 e-mails that I was happy not to have clog up my inbox.

SpamNet is one of many tools available to help eliminate or at least reduce spam. Here are a couple of others:

*S4F offers its FilterPak for $5 per month. It can be downloaded from .

*SpamFilter offers a plug-in that filters spam for Outlook and Eudora users. The company offers a free trial, but charges $13 if you want to keep the tool. There is also a list of several other filter products that users can purchase toward to bottom of the page

Next time: What business users are saying about spam.