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Spam, Spam and More Spam

No, this post is not about canned meat. It's about spam email, the bane of many an email providers existence, the source of constant irritation to all of us who use it. Spam accounts for somewhere between 70%-90% of all email. It fluctuates a great deal from day to day. You can read more about it here, if you're so inclined.

We use an email filtering company called Postini for our email, to keep as much of the junk, porn, and viruses out of the email we deliver to our clients as possible. But there's just no way to catch it all, and the spammers are getting more and more devious all the time. Lately we've been having problems with spammers high-jacking domain names and using associated emails to spoof from, essentially using someone else's email address to spam. These users call up complaining because as the spam goes out, inevitably some of the email addresses are not valid and the email gets bounced back to the sending address. So now all of the sudden you start seeing tons of messages getting bounced back to you because someone else is using your address to send spam. There's not much we can do about this. It's almost like getting your credit card stolen except without the financial headache. You could cancel the account if you want, but that's extremely inconvenient if you're using it for professional purposes. Or you can wait for it to stop, because what the spammers tend to do is high-jack the addresses for a few days to a week and then move onto the next guy.

In our office, we consider email as fundamentally broken. When 90% is crap no one wants, it's a serious problem. We spend over $6,000 a year to have our customers' email filtered and we're only a small company. We're constantly taking calls from irritated or irate customers who are still seeing graphic porn or other offensive, inappropriate, and unwanted advertisements in their email box. Not to mention the time spent helping to resolve email issues, block holes in the network spammers have found, adding extra scripting to contact forms to prevent spammers and crawlers from sending spam through them, the cost of the bandwidth necessary to handle all of this email, even though most of it's junk. Spending time on the phone getting Yahoo or AOL or Google to accept email from our servers again because they've blocked us because someone's been spamming through us somehow. It's truly a disaster.

How do we fix it? No one seems to have answer. So we just keep trying to improve our system for blocking the spam before it gets delivered, paying thousands of dollars to handle the volume of traffic created by all the junk. And there's really no end or solution in sight.



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