Wednesday, Apr 16 2014 06:00 AM

Tech Wire: The fight against spam

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Matthew Sgherzi

The term "junk" mail has taken shape over recent years. In the past, we always received junk mail in the form of advertisements in the mail. Once telephones were introduced, companies began starting "telemarketing" companies to begin cold-calling people in hopes of selling them their product. Once fax and texting became popular, this only escalated the issue.

Now that we have e-mail everywhere we go in the palm of our hands, the term "junk" mail has a whole new meaning: Spam. Spam is a billion dollar business that both legitimate companies, hackers and everyone in-between are a part of.

If you hate spam, like most do, here are some options for fighting back:

Do Not Acknowledge

One of the very first steps in fighting back against spam is knowing what not to do. The first thing you should never do is to respond. In many cases, spam is being sent from a virus installed on an infected computer, and it is sending spam out to millions of random e-mail addresses. By responding, the software now knows you are legitimate, and the spam will only increase afterward. By opening the e-mail, you may see a link or an attachment, which is likely infected with malware. This is one of the many ways viruses and spyware spread, and you should never open a suspected junk or spam message.

Switch to Gmail

Google's Gmail has some of the very best spam and junk mail filters available. In Gmail, you can set up new filters as you go along and have the ability to use your e-mail in a tabbed interface, much like your Internet browser. Gmail's interface is intuitive and helps you to organize the e-mail you want and the e-mail you do not want (ie. Spam). The security and filters of spam are better than most and it is the e-mail provider that is highly recommended.

Use a Mail Application

If switching to a brand new e-mail provider does not sound like a true solution, then there are other options. If your e-mail account is becoming inundated with spam and various junk mail, you can install a mail application on your computer that will give you the ability to send and receive from your same account.

Your options for an e-mail application are Outlook (part of Microsoft Office), Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird (from Mozilla) or the "Mail" app for Macintosh, just to name a few. These programs will allow you to setup your e-mail and customize the filters. The more you use your e-mail, the more the application will "learn" what junk is and what legitimate e-mail is, making it truly a self-aware e-mail application.

Using a mail application will force you to re-learn a new program, which can take time. Getting to your e-mail will require you to open a program on your computer as opposed to logging on to a website. There are some minor differences, but it can truly change your future e-mailing experience for the better.

Even though spam is frustrating and troublesome, there are, like everything else in the tech world, options. Taking advantage of some of these options will allow you to fight back against junk mail and have an overall better e-mail experience.


MATTHEW SGHERZI lives in Tehachapi where he has operated an IT business since 2007 (tehachapicomputers.com).

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