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Scott's Column
Viruses & Spam Filters

December 1, 2005
By Scott Lewis

With the holidays upon us I have not had the time I wanted to spend working on my web site. In fact, I doubt I will get back to the Web Tool Comparison until after Christmas. So let's see what we do have for this month.

Gaming

A friend lent me Indigo Prophecy. As expected I have been too busy to even load it on my computer. Hopefully I can tell you about it next month.

I tried loading the demo to F.E.A.R. but it caused my computer to go into an endless loop of reboots. The only way I could stop it was to boot into safe mode and uninstall the demo. I assume the actually game will have its install better written. I guess I will just have to wait for this game to get down to my sweet spot price level of $20 so I can buy it. It seems to be getting great reviews.

Viruses & Spam Filters

A few months ago I setup some mail filters because my spam was getting out of control. I don't remember if I told you about it so I will give a brief explanation here. When my spam messages went over 100 a day I had to do something. I had read about mail filtering and decided it was time to do it.

I setup four filters. The first filter is for all the addresses that I want to receive e-mail from. Call it a white list. The second filter looks for the word subscribe in the subject and puts it in a folder for my web site. The third filter is similar to the second, and drops certain messages in my web site folder. Finally, the fourth filter is for spam. It takes all mail and puts it into a spam folder.

Notice that regardless of any of the first three filters all other mail goes to the spam folder. Basically this system assumes all mail is spam, unless I said so in a previous filter. Once in a while I will go through the spam folder and look for legitimate messages and add the sender to the white list.

It's that simple. After a while the spam was down to about 10 messages a day. Almost not worth having a filter for. But I am glad I did. Right around Thanksgiving I started receiving in excess of 500 spam messages a day. If those filters were not there it would have been a nightmare to look at my e-mails.

I assume this sudden spike in e-mails is due to some new virus. A new virus can spread that leaves a Trojan horse program on a machine turning that machine into a mail zombie, sending endless spam messages.

When I looked through the spam folder I found only about four or five different messages (just reading the subject line... NEVER open spam). It is amazing how nice the FBI and CIA are about sending me e-mails telling me I visit illegal sites, they have logged my IP address, and have confirmed my password. How sweet. Oh yea, I also got a LOT of messages about Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton. Finally, the classic mail delivery failure notifications.

It was amazing how quickly I was able to clean this stuff up just by sorting the mail by subject line.

I wish there was an easy way to report this behavior that would do some good. I bet that the vast majority of the e-mails I got were illegal. Illegal in the sense that it is a crime to tamper with a computer, and that is how the messages got sent, regardless of whether there was any kind of illegal content in the messages themselves.

Conclusion

I was going to write about one more topic this month, but I forgot to make a quick note, and the idea is lost... forever. So that's it.

Wait a minute... as I was prepping these pages to upload them I realize while handling my new mouse what I wanted to write about... my new mouse. I will tell you about it next month.

Until next time.

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