Many of the largest Internet providers filter The battle between those who send unsolicited e-mail advertisements, commonly known as spam, and those blocking them has become an arms race. On one side are hordes of spammers who find ways, through technology and guile, to penetrate consumers’ inboxes. For example, by misspelling telltale words like “V1agra” (for Viagra) or “D E B T” (for debt). On the other side are Internet providers with industrial-strength spam-blocking software, vigilante organizations that blacklist spammers, and consumers armed with retail consumer reports spam-blocking programs.
Many of the largest Internet providers filter spam, but spammers cansneak through by disguising themselves. Spam-blocking software can filter up to 90% of the spam that your provider doesn’t catch.
Add-ons for PCs–used in conjunction with an e-mail program to recognize and filter spam–are made by the brands Blue Squirrel, FireTrust, Intermute, MailFrontier, Mailshell, McAfee, Stata Labs, Sunbelt Software, and Symantec.
E-mail programs that can recognize and filter spam without additional software are often bundled with new computers. Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mac OS X Mail come with such filters.
Price range for add-ons: free to $70, plus yearly fees of $5 to $25.
Price range for e-mail programs: free to $90.
In addition to identifying spam, the best filtering software should be able to correctly identify almost all valid e-mail, i.e., mail that isn’t spam. Some programs can also learn–after initial training with sample e-mail, the model can improve by statistically analyzing new spam and valid e-mail messages. This is a big plus given spammers’ changing tactics. Another thing to look for is a model that checks online by referring to an online database of spammers or spam identifiers. A program that tags spam adds a recognizable label in the Subject field, which can help you quickly locate and delete offending e-mails. Also look for a model that offers easy inspection of quarantined e-mails within your e-mail program so you can find and retrieve misidentified valid e-mails.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Performance differences. Spam-blocking software works, but to varying degrees. All products tested by Consumer Reports recognized at least 40 percent of the junk; the best identified 90 percent or more.
Recommendations. Your first defense against spam should be whatever your Internet provider offers. If your e-mail program filters spam, that’s your second defense. If those aren’t enough, consider the software described above. Then assess how important ease of use and installation are to you, since some of the cheaper (and free) software can be a challenge for those who aren’t computer savvy or who are put off by detailed instructions.
Spam-blocking software can filter up to 90% of the spam that your provider doesn’t catch.
The battle between those who send unsolicited e-mail advertisements–commonly known as spam–and those trying to thwart them has become an arms race. On one side are hordes of spammers who find ways, through technology and guile, to penetrate consumers’ in-boxes (for example, by misspelling words like “V1agra” for Viagra or “D E B T” for debt). On the other side are Internet providers with industrial-strength spam-blocking software, vigilante organizations that blacklist spammers, and consumers armed with retail spam-blocking programs.
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