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Spam Buster – nifty software to junk that junk mail
Member Name: libertybell
Date: 05/04/01, updated on 05/04/01 (290 review reads)
Advantages: Free, flexible, doesn’t download spam and unobtrusive advertising
Disadvantages: Only works with POP type email addresses, can be a bit temperamental
And yes I’ve tried to stop them coming. I’ve used the ‘unsubscribe from this list’ – funny how the reply to address doesn’t exist or the mailbox is full. When desperate I type ‘PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE’ and although it makes me feel better – the next night I have another set of spammy emails.
The truth is you can’t stop it coming. You have to get clever and use some sort of filtering device to sort out the wheat from the chaff. I’ve tried setting up filters on Outlook and Outlook Express – but this requires time and patience. The spammers are clever and you will always find a smartarse somewhere who can get through your filter.
My solution was to find some software where the filters have already been set-up and which can be run prior to downloading emails. A sort of firewall – but for the home user.
With this in mind, I went to the www.zdnet.com web site and searched through their lists of spam filters until I cam across ‘Spam Buster’ – which is a roundabout way of getting to the subject of this opinion.
To be perfectly honest, its one of many similar products and there are probably others around which do the same jobs more efficiently. But this is what I use and I would like to take a little time to describe its operations.
Spam Buster (or SB as it will be shortened to from now), is produced by a company called Contact Plus and can be downloaded for free from their www.contactplus.com web site. The
file is 1.4mb so it won’t take too long to download and they are currently up to v1.9 of their software. SB only processes POP3 email accounts. So if you use Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL etc – it will not work. Other than the POP3 requirement and a need for a 486+/Windows 9+ or NT/32MB+ RAM, its needs are pretty modest.
Oh – forgot to mention that because its freeware, you have to put up with some pretty unobtrusive banner advertising. If this really annoys you, you can shell out $19.95 for an advert-free one – but I think you are just pouring money down the drain.
SB can operate in 1 of 2 ways. In ‘automatic’ mode, you can setup SB to automatically run in the background to read your emails and delete the spam. This works well if you have a permanent connection and you totally trust SB to delete the spam and let the good stuff through.
As I have a dial-up connection and want to see what SB is about to delete – I use SB in ‘manual mode’. I would recommend this mode of operation.
Upon downloading SB, activate it and a hammer icon will appear in the system tray at the bottom of the screen. Right click and select the main screen option to invoke the software. There may be a better way – but it works for me and time is too precious to mess about.
Before you can filter emails, you have to tell SB details of your POP3 mailbox(es). In the General settings area, for each mailbox to be read, you specify:
* Server name eg POP3.DOOYOO.CO.UK
* Your User Id
* Password for your User id
You also tick the box. This is repeated for each mailbox up to a maximum of 6. In this area you can also:
* Set SB to check email automatically or
* Specify which email program you use eg
Outlook or Outlook Express
* Whether you want SB to open that email
program when all emails have been filtered
r>Having done this, you are ready to give SB a bash.
The filtering process
SB comes with its own ‘blacklist’ of spammers. These include email addresses, domain names, subject headings and key words/symbols in subjects. The latter is interesting because it looks for obvious words like ‘SEX’, XXX’ as well as ‘$$$’. Also SB will check whether the sending email and reply-to email are the same. If they are not – its likely to be spam. There are hundreds of entries on this file, which you can maintain yourself. The list expands with every new release – unsurprisingly. It says there are 18000+ entries on the list!
SB has other filters. You can add details of spammers yourself. If you find some spam which was not picked up by the blacklist, you can by right clicking on the mouse – add the subject and/or email address to a spam list. If on the other hand, you want to let certain emails to get through the filter, you can make them exceptions. These are then flagged with a yellow hand.
The lists of spammers and exceptions can be viewed and amended easily.
How it works
Now we have set up SB and explained the filtering process, lets describe how it’s typically used.
You first get access to your ISP (eg dial-in). Invoke SB as previously described. Next you click on the ‘Check email’ button. Select the mailbox to be read and SB will read through all headers for the mailbox.
All headers are displayed and if an email fails the ‘Blacklist’ it is marked with a black tick. If it fails a rule you have defined, it gets marked with a red tick. If it’s a bit suspect, then it’s marked with a blue query. Emails that are marked as exceptions have a yellow hand symbol next to them.
If you aren’t sure about an email, you can have a ‘butchers’ at the head
er or the body of the email by selecting the email and doing a right click. You can then decide to make the email a spam candidate or an exception.
Finally, when you have decided what to keep and what to junk, you click the delete marked messages icon (a dustbin) and you say good riddance to all that spam. The retained emails are re-displayed on the screen.
From here, you can invoke your email program to download your emails properly or close SB.
It’s really as easy as that!
SB also keeps a text log, which it uses to produce all sorts of weird and wonderful statistics including:
* How many emails you’ve read each
day, how many were spam and how many were
kosher (bar chart)
* Period by period comparisons (for the
* A pie chart showing the percentage of good
and spam emails. Mine says that 51% of my
emails are spam !!!
* Top 10 spam domains
* Top 10 spam email address
You can clear down the text file if it’s too dull – but it’s worth perusing the graphs once in a while.
SB is a nice simple bit of software to filter out spam. An older version of SB I used did lock up – but since re-building my PC and installing a new version of SB – I haven’t had any problems.
It may not be as slick as some shop bought software, but it does the job, is highly recommended by ZDNET and most importantly is free!!!