One of the advantages of being a paranoid security geek is you slowly acquire a familiarity with consumer security tools to prevent any of the bad nastiness you comment on from happening to your own system. While I’m sure some of my remotely hosted servers will get cracked on occasion since I don’t have full control over them I’ve taken it as a personal point of honor to defend my personal computers from www.youvebeenhacked.ru to the bitter end. Every now and then on slow news days I’ll highlight some of these tools and techniques to help readers protect their own systems. Since I use Macs, PCs, and even a dash of Linux there should be some good nuggets for all platforms.
Disclaimer– I do not accept any advertising (or anything else) from any vendor, anywhere, end of story. If I discuss a vendor on this site it’s because I think the product is actually useful. I will also NEVER endorse any vendor I cover professionally on Securosis!
And I’m going to start with spam.
I really hate spam.
And if you want to skip to the end just go buy SpamSieve (Mac only), which is one of those gems very familiar to you Mac geeks.
But for those of you that like to read…
Like everyone on the Internet not sending this crap I despise spam. I still remember the early days when commercial business was forbidden on the Internet. No spam. No popups. No phishing. No Amazon. No Google. No ThinkGeek. No… oh wait, never mind.
Spam is more than an annoyance, it’s a pretty serious security issue. Most phishing attacks, Internet fraud, and viruses spread using spam. While I don’t know the exact economics involved I suspect more spam today is for fraudulent businesses and goods than legitimate, but annoying, marketing. Sorry, even the porn spam guys. Spam is apparently so darn profitable that a serious chunk of the botnets today are dedicated to spreading it.
But most of you already know this.
For a while I was reasonably immune to spam. My work email was protected with a commercial server-based product and the not-too-bad Outlook junk mail filters. Yahoo does a good job, as do the other public servers where I keep accounts. The real problem was my long-time personal email on a private domain. This account was hard to guess and off the map for a long time and spam was where. What did make it through was caught by the server filter we used (SpamAssasin). But one tragic day I ended up on a political email list and my blissful childhood ended. One bad list administrator managed to get everyone on that list firmly in the sights of the evil spammers. Within weeks 70% of my email on my once-pristine account was spam.
Until I finally downloaded SpamSieve.
SpamSieve is what’s known as a Bayesian filter- which means it uses all sorts of math I’ll never understand to recognize patterns. I won’t review it or dig into details. All you need to know is if you are on a Mac and have spam in your Inbox you need to go buy this. It took me only 5 days of the free 30 day trial before I whipped out the credit card and paid my $25.00
I get less than one spam message in my Inbox per week. It’s only ever blocked one message I wanted to read (you can check). It takes a few days to a week to train, but that’s really easy. Unlike most computer software it just works.