Rhodri Marsden: Cyberclinic

How can I stop all the spam?
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The Independent Online

YOU'VE GOT (UNWANTED) MAIL

How can I stop the senders of spam getting hold of my e-mail address?

When you open a new e-mail account, there's a grim inevitability that you'll start receiving unsolicited correspondence. "Since 1998, I've got through five e-mail addresses," writes Toby James, "abandoning each one as it becomes swamped with ads for Viagra."

How to stamp it out at source? "The only 100 per cent insurance," says Andrew Lochart from corporate e-mail security experts Postini, "is not to have an e-mail address." Short of this rather drastic measure, you can minimise spam intake by ensuring that your e-mail address is neither widely available nor easily guessable. "Spammers sometimes use lists of surnames," writes Les May, "putting each letter of the alphabet in front of each one, and then trying every major ISP and e-mail provider." Also, if you own a domain name, make sure your mailbox isn't receiving mail for every possible address permutation, as is happening to Michael Blake: "I'm receiving bogus undelivered mail messages that supposedly originated from non-existent addresses at my domain, e.g. pkgmnkx@mydomain.co.uk." The solution is to ask your web-hosting provider to turn off any "catch-all" options, and set up individual mailboxes instead.

It may sound obvious, but don't reply to spam, asking them to stop. This merely confirms your spamability. But the spammer's main weapon is the spambot, a program which trawls the internet searching for likely e-mail addresses. "Make sure that your address never appears on any webpage," writes Cesare Bianchi, "and that includes your own website, forums and any Word and PDF documents they may be linked to."

So it's really about damage limitation - and equipping yourself with a decent filtering system.

Diagnosis required

Manuela Ledermann writes with a question:

"It's great to be able go online outside the home and the office - but why aren't wireless hotspots more widespread and more affordable?" Any comments, and new questions for the Cyberclinic, should be e-mailed to cyberclinic@independent.co.uk.

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