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How do I stop getting all this spam?
I'm always getting these messages in my mailbox for commercial services which I didn't request information for. I understand that this is known as 'spam', and is the scourge of the Internet. What is your position on spam, and how do I stop getting it?



Our Position

Dreamhost has a very strict policy against spamming from our servers, and take a very dim view of those who use such practices to further their business goals. In short, as much as we'd love to Get Rich Quick (!!), we don't feel that blanketing Internet users with unsolicited commercial email is a valid business practice. If we catch someone using our servers for dispersing such material, our usual policy is to disable that user.

Unfortunately, stopping spam from outside of Dreamhost isn't always quite as simple. There are currently actions being taken across the Internet and beyond to stop spam (for example, various pieces of legislation aim to make it illegal in some localities), but until then, we've been forced to rely on technology most of the time.

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Why Spam Is Bad

Spam is bad for a variety of reasons. Obviously, it wastes time for each and every person who receives junk email (since many distributions run in the thousands, this adds up!). Those who pay a connection charge for the amount of time they spend online will never find a spammer who will help split the bill.

For network providers or those who run email services (such as us), spam constitutes a very real performance hit on our servers. If you ever notice that your email is downloading slower than usual, spam may play a part in that. We also pay for our own bandwidth, which means that we usually end up paying for any unsolicited commercial email that comes through. Multiply that times a few thousand users, and once again the problem is very much real.

For the spammer, there are problems as well. This form of 'advertising' often alienates recipients rather than convincing them of the value for a product. Many readers will delete anything that looks like spam without even reading it. The theory seems to be that bulk email is so cheap that even if a quarter of one percent of its readers buy, they make a profit. This may be true, but in the long run your company's reputation is at stake. If you are perceived to be a bottom-feeder on the Internet, your business will suffer.

Of course, this isn't even mentioning the sometimes drastic backlash those who dislike spam will take against perpetrators. Some spammers wake up to find their servers go down due to voluminous amounts of hate mail from frustrated people.

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What Not To Do

Under no circumstances should you reply to any addresses that appear to allow you to be removed from a spammer's list. Doing so usually means you incur more spam, as the spammer will sell your address to other spammers. The fact that you reply means that your address is valid, and worth more in the underground market for email addresses. This is one deceitful approach spammers will use to filter out 'good' addresses from the bad.

Also, be very careful that you don't target the wrong person if you choose to strike back against a spammer. Some have been known to put the email addresses of innocent parties in the 'Reply To' portion of email versus their own. Others use other peoples' servers to run their operations - often, an administrator doesn't know what is happening until he/she is contacted by an unhappy user. Be polite but firm in your request that the spammer be booted. You will quite often get good results.

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Spamcop!

One very useful tool is Spamcop, a web site run by an anti-spam activist which makes the process of finding and reporting unsolicited commercial email much easier than before. Many times, the headers in such messages are forged by using fake or 'throwaway' email accounts. However, Spamcop usually finds a way past these tricks and helps you report the sender to the proper individuals at his/her service provider. Although you may find some administrators to be unresponsive, most respectable providers will take your complaint seriously and close down the spammer's account.

Although it won't help with all cases, Spamcop has proven to be effective more often than not.

http://spamcop.net/

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Mail Filters

Recently DreamHost has added Razor spam filtering as an option you can turn on for all mailboxes hosted with us. Razor is a continuously-updated centralized database of known spam that our system will check to see if each incoming message of yours matches. If so, it will automatically drop the spam in a folder of your choosing. There are also options to report missed spam as spam and unreport messages incorrectly marked as spam.

You also may be able to filter some messages based on keywords in your email client, but that sort of technique is generally a lot of work and not very effective.

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More Information On Spam

There are numerous sites which go into great detail about the spam problem, and may provide information that you can use to make yourself better prepared to fight your spam problem. Here are a few to get you started:

Committee Against Unsolicited Commercial Email
http://www.cauce.org/

Stop Spam FAQ
http://www.mall-net.com/spamfaq.html

Boycott Internet Spam
http://spam.abuse.net/

Last updated: Apr 02, 2003.

User Post (2002-09-26 02:52:56 by william)
Also, the person who wrote the article obviously had no idea how SA or its scoring system works. While many of the things which Spamassassin scores on may *sound* stupid, it doesn't really matter. Also, many of the tests have a negative score, or a very small positive score. I score at 6.0, so it takes several spammy things to filter a message.

Obviously any filter will risk some false positives; I check my filtered messages daily. I do find that the most recent version of SA only gives me one or two false positives a week, with a couple of spam messages let through as well (and I get a *lot* of spam).

The various bayesian (and pseudo-bayesian) spam filters that have been gaining popularity in recent weeks sound interesting too - they're supposedly quite effective. I haven't messed with them much yet though.
User Post (2003-01-27 15:16:49 by karawynn)
the best way to not get spam is to use a virgin email address, one that's never been posted naked on your web site. here's a good article about how to include a mailto link on your web site such that it works normally for users but is disguised from the email-collection spiders: http://www.alistapart.com/stories/spam/

this method can also be adapted for use with the formmail script; just have the javascript generate the hidden "recipient" field containing the email address.
User Post (2002-09-07 11:55:34 by kfox)
Regarding the "You HAD Mail" article, it should be noted that SpamAssassin is highly customizable, and that the article in question was written by someone who runs a newsletter all about running online business. No conflict of interest there. no way. Unh uh. Right.
User Post (2002-09-04 13:29:17 by mschill)
I've been trying SpamCop for over 6 months now, religiously sending them all my spam mails. But it turned out to be practically useless. The amount of Spam I get has continued to increase, including Spam through ISPs that were repeatedly reported to SpamCop.

I noticed the FTC has an email address to forward spam to. More info at http://www.ftc.gov.
User Post (2002-08-21 23:11:46 by diva)
Unfortunately Spam Assassin also blocks most e-mail newsletters, discussion lists, and a substantial proportion of business-related e-mails in general. Unless used very carefully you can lose a LOT of legitimate e-mail. There's a good critical article on it, entitled "You HAD Mail!", at http://www.talkbiz.com/assassin.html
User Post (2002-07-23 09:57:39 by rdonkin)
For a good anti-spam system that works on the server side, have a look at using procmail (already enabled on Dreamhost) and SpamAssassin (a Perl package at www.spamassassin.org), which has a good reputation for blocking 99% of spam. For more information on this combination, see the new kbase entry on procmail (at /kbase/index.cgi?area=2626&keyword=procmail ), and http://donkin.org/bin/view/Main/SpamAssassin for setup files that work on Dreamhost.