Fighting spam...

I hate spam : it makes people loose time, money, energy, resources, and above all, it is useless ! I want to share with you some tools and techniques to fight against it.

  • Short definition

    Spam can be defined as "unsolicited, automated email". It is often said that spam is unsolicited, commercial email, but imagine I am looking to buy a bike, and that a friend of mine offers me to buy his, this is unsolicited and commercial, although I will be very pleased to receive this offer. If someone sends a flood of email to support a political or social cause, this is not commercial, but this is spam too ! Hence the definition as "unsolicited, automated email".

  • What to do when I get spam ?

    The first thing most people tend to do with spam emails is to immediately send them to the trash. This is an understandable reflex, but is useless from the point of view of fighting against it !
    First of all, you should report this abuse to the internet service provider that the spammer used. For instance, if the spammer's email address looks like xxx@yyy.zz, forward the email to abuse@yyy.zz and spam@yyy.zz. Every serious internet service provider has setup such addresses in order for users to complain.
    I have a standard abuse letter that I send to the team handling these requests. Feel free to use it too :


    The following COMMERCIAL, UNSOLICITED E-MAIL was received by myself. Please educate your users that this can clog people's mailboxes and subject them to criminal prosecution.
    In some states, it falls under the definition of illegal faxing without the recipient's permission (device having a computer, modem, and printer and capable of printing images. USC 47.5.II.227. Fine: $500 per recipient).

    In some countries, notably England, it falls under the Criminal Statutes regarding unauthorized alteration of computer data or theft of computer resources (theft of access time and disk space).

    YOU, Mr. Service Provider, can be held as an ACCESSORY to these CRIMINAL ACTIONS !

    EDUCATE your Users or cut them off at the phone line !

    Thank you.

    Be sure to include the email headers, otherwise your step will be useless. What is a header ?
    It is automated email information that not only servers add to the message and makes it possible to track down the journey the email followed before reaching your mailbox, but also give you a lot of details about the sender. It looks like this :

    Return-Path: ¦xxx@yyy.zz¦
    Received: from kat.skhnet.ze ( [])
    by cobert.skynet.ze (8.12.9/8.12.9/Skhnet-MAILSTORE-2.14) with ESMTP id i0CLjIPC010278
    for ¦wsf@serg.te¦; Mon, 12 Jan 2004 22:45:18 +0100 (MET)
    (envelope-from ¦xxx@yyy.zz¦)

    Most email programs have such a "Show all email headers" function.

    I systematically report abuse to service providers, and it works : I have succeeded in having spammers accounts being closed by services like AOL, Hotmail, ... Come along, and fight with us !

    Some other tips :
    -Try to setup filters in your email program
    -Never use your main address to post messages in Usenet, forums, ...
    -Never use your main address to register to web sites that require one
    -Never give your email adddress to untrusted sources

As a last word, I will say that all this regards only spams, and not emails received from mailing lists to which tje user registers himself. Even if there can be several common items, the advice, tips and suggestions hereabove apply only to spams !