Blocking Spam in Outlook Express

Spam is a major problem with having an email account. If you only wish to receive emails from specific email addresses then you can set up a white list filter to do this. Where you expect to receive emails that you want to receive from people whose email addresses you don't know in advance, things are slightly more difficult.

In many cases you can identify spam email without having to open it. Spam emails often contain all uppercase in the subject and or lots of exclamation marks or have some other entry in the subject that lets you know immediately that it is spam. We don't want to open spam emails because of the damage that a malicious payload could cause to our system so identifying them from the subject is best.

Spam emails are also usually sent to a lot of people at once so chances are your email address is in the CC field rather than being specified in the TO field. Emails that you want to receive where your name is in the CC field include newsletters and other mailing lists that you have signed up for so you need to make sure that you don't misidentify these as spam. Most other emails where you are in the CC field instead of the TO field are spam.

So having identified an email as spam (preferably without opening it) what can we do to make sure that the first copy of that email that we receive is also the last? We have two options, one fairly quick and simple to apply and the other which requires more work but will produce better results.

First the quick solution. Go into Tools and select Options and then the Maintenance tab. Make sure that Empty messages from the 'Deleted Items' folder on Exit is checked and select OK. This will make sure that all emails flagged for deletion are actually deleted when you shut down Outlook Express. Now when you identify an email as spam, select but don't open the email then go into the Message menu and select Block Sender. This will add the sender of the spam email to your blocked list and give you the option of moving all emails from that sender to the Deleted Items folder. All future emails from that sender will go straight into Deleted Items and all spam emails will automatically be deleted at the end of your email session.

The disadvantage of this method is that you are still wasting time downloading all of the spam before identifying and deleting it. We can solve this problem by creating our own email black list.

The first step in doing this is to obtain the list of all of the email addresses in your Blocked Sender list. To obtain this go into the Tools menu and select Message Rules and then Block Sender List... to bring up a list of senders that you currently have blocked. I suggest that you select each of these blocked email addresses one at a time and cut and paste them into a text document. You can then use this text document to cut and paste the email addresses that you want to black list into the appropriate field. Setting up an email black list is exactly the same as setting up an email white list except when you get to Rule Condition Options you want to select Message Contains the People Below rather than not containing them. For the first selection choose the first option but for the second selection you still choose the second option. The rule should now read Where the From line does contain and a list of the spam addresses with or in between each pair.

The easiest way to add additional spam senders to your black list is to first block them and then extract their email address from the blocked senders list to add to your blacklist filter.

Now if someone who has previously sent you an email that you identified as spam tries to send you another email, Outlook Express will not waste time downloading that email from the server to your computer. The email will be immediately deleted from the server instead.

The only disadvantage of the process described on this page is that it is a manual one, you need to manually identify each spam sender and add them to your black list. To automate the process and identify emails from common spam senders even if they haven't sent any spam to you before requires antispam software. Such software comes in two varieties, one that works client side (like an automated block sender option) and one that works server side (an automated black list). Obviously the second of these types is the one to go for. I am unable to advise further on which one you should select because none of the several free versions of such software that I tried could locate any emails on my server to check for spam.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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