SpamSieve, by far the best anti-spam email tool I’ve used, was updated to version 2.3 yesterday. The biggest change listed was increased accuracy, due to improvements in the tokenizers and parsers. John Gruber reported that the beta versions were running at 99.9% accuracy for him, which is several tenths of a percent above where I’d peaked.
When you get more than one thousand spams a week, you live for improvements of a couple of tenths of a percent. I of course upgraded immediately.
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For many years, Rochelle used Netscape Communicator for her email. About a year and a half ago, I switched her to Mozilla Thunderbird, which is the code and user-interface successor to Communicator. For the most part it works very well, but it has one astonishing omission: its anti-virus capabilities are terrible.
This is all the more remarkable given their tagline (“Reclaim Your Inbox”), and the second sentence of their Why Use Thunderbird blurb: “We designed Thunderbird to prevent viruses and to stop junk mail so you can get back to reading your mail.” Thunderbird is positioned as the more user-centric, safer alternative to Microsoft Outlook.
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When I converted this site to WordPress, I decided to turn on commenting, and see what happened. I have gotten a fair number of really good comments, and from people I didn’t know, which was cool. I also got a ton of comment spam (most of which never made it online). Not cool.
So I did a few things about it.
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2004 was a big year for spam, after Congress voted to make it legal at the end of 2003. The result: spam increased sharply in 2004.
But in my own, more personal battles with spam I’ve been more successful at holding back the tide. My stats for 2004:
36278 Good Messages
72239 Spam Messages (67%)
197 Spam Messages Per Day
135 False Positives
451 False Negatives (77%)
Nearly seventy five thousand spam messages came at me, but thanks to SpamSieve a mere 451 made it into my Inbox. That’s less than two spams a day. Simply amazing.
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As I have been working on this site, I’ve visited quite a few other weblogs run by WordPress, and occasionally see something that I’d like to know how to do myself. A little widget here, a list of related posts there, a cool show/hide trick somewhere, etc. Cool things, but nothing that says how to do them. So, if anyone ever has that thought about my site, here’s the info. (This is really of interest to WordPress users only, but hopefully it’ll be useful, and other WordPress users will do the same.)
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I spent a couple of hours yesterday working on a few last lingering details for this site. The main changes I wanted to make were to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress (a minor security update), make sure I was using the latest version of the Kubrick template (I was), and most importantly, fix the problems I was having with the Kubrick comments form, which is a lot cleaner and nicer than the standard WordPress version.
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In the three or four years I’ve been fighting unwanted e-mail messages with better tools than the Delete key I’ve tried almost a dozen different tools. This is a quick (ha!) survey of the ones I’ve used, and why I don’t (or do) still use them.
My very first anti-spam tool was something called Mailfilter. I used it for my personal e-mail on Mac OS X, wrote about it here, and almost immediately afterwards lost a non-spam message to an aggressive keyword match. That was the end of Mailfilter. I can’t even remotely recommend it, as it’s just not intelligent enough (strict, single expression matching), and had zero safety net.
My next attempt at a solution was a utility called SpamFire. Like Mailfilter, it is a “pre-filter,” which means it would run before my e-mail client, download my mail, and skim out the spam. Unlike Mailfilter, it actually saved the trapped messages, so if it made a mistake, I could recover the message. It had plenty of other differences from Mailfilter, which I wrote about previously, and which made it so useful that it became the first anti-spam tool I paid for. But in the end I switched to a different tool because SpamFire was separate from my e-mail client, and that made it cumbersome to use.
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So, with the end of the first half of the year, I thought break my silence by taking another look at the level of spam flowing into my mailboxes, and how well my tools are coping with it. First, here are the stats for Q2:
Filtered Mail 6674 Good Messages
16976 Spam Messages (72%)
SpamSieve Accuracy 52 False Positives
71 False Negatives (58%)
And here are the stats for the first half of the year:
Filtered Mail 20554 Good Messages
39595 Spam Messages (66%)
SpamSieve Accuracy 83 False Positives
270 False Negatives (76%)
You can review my previous post for the Q1 details, but the overall trends are:
- SpamSieve increased its overall accuracy, but the number of false positives (legit messages marked as spam) went up, which is a bit troubling.
- The actual amount of spam I received was down, but as a percentage of my mail stream, it was up. (This is because my legitimate mail traffic is down 50% after I unsubscribed from some mailing lists.)
- 75% less spam reached my Inbox (71, vs 270 in Q1).
The overall reduction in spam traffic is encouraging, and proof that the pobox.com mail filters that I enabled at the end of Q1 are doing a tremendous job at rejecting spam coming to my oldest e-mail address.
The one really irritating new trend this past quarter, which doesn’t show up in the stats, is the number of bounces and anti-virus error messages hitting me. The alderete.com and aldosoft.com domains have been spoofed (forged) in a lot of spam and worm traffic, and because I have my domains “wild carded” to accept e-mail for “firstname.lastname@example.org”, the result is I get a lot of crap in my Inbox that is intended to let “email@example.com” know that the crap didn’t go through.
So I’ve been compiling a list of the e-mail aliases I actually use (quite a lot because I use custom addresses with various vendors and web sites, so I can track who sells my address to spammers, turn off specific addresses, etc.), with the intent that I’ll enable those, and disable the wild cards. I hope to do that over the holiday weekend, and expect it to have almost as dramatic effect on crap coming in as the improved pobox.com spam filters.