Security Starting Point: Check and Change Passwords, Filter Your Email Spam

Due to the recent actions of some Russian hackers, this month’s post is — once again! — about security.

If you happened to be vacationing far far off in the woods, and you didn’t see this story last month, I strongly recommend giving it a read. Yep, could be time to change the passwords on your favorite web sites again. Thanks Russian hackers! Have a look at the following article for a great summary:

NY Times | Russian Hackers Steal up to a Billion Credit Card Credentials

Securing Your Email from Spam

Rather scary eh? Still it pays to be vigilant. That goes for your email too. These days so much of our email is Spam. In fact, an unprotected Spam mailbox has around 90+% Spam overall. Having a Spam solution is key to an uncluttered mailbox. Below is my experience with two popular Spam solutions.

The first of these is a product called MailWasher by Firetrust. This program will allow you to preload your email before actually downloading Spam or malware. Because you don’t actually download the message, the advantage to this approach is that the code in a bad email can’t auto-run on your PC. Another pro is that the program will learn your preferences — what you do and do not consider Spam — as you use it.

What I found as the most annoying con about this software though is that there is that it entails a lot of mail handling. What this means is you constantly need to be reviewing your email in this application and manually filtering out the bad. So while it effectively keeps the bad code out the software needs a lot of hand-holding. A second con I find with this software is it doesn’t handle mail well when your mail application is set to IMAP. In this scenario, mail never seems to get removed from the list of messages within the MailWasher software and the list can therefore get pretty long.

The free version of this software allows for one email account. The Pro version of this software is subscription based (renewed like your antivirus software), and allows for any number of accounts to be verified. Link to the Mailwasher website here.

The other mail filtering option I would like to review is Skyway West’s preferred solution:  SpamAssassin. Spam Assassin works a little differently than MailWasher. SpamAssassin takes your email while on the mail server, examines the message, looks for key elements to the software, assigns a point value to those elements and compares that score to a score that you define and set. If the Spam score is higher than your set score the message is considered Spammy. If lower, the message is delivered to you.

With this approach you can customize and update the score so more or less Spam can be can be filtered. If a message is considered to be Spam you can choose one of three options of how to deal with it: You can tag the message as Spam, you can quarantine the message or outright delete it. You can also whilelist or blacklist email accounts or whole domains. A big benefit for me, then, over MailWasher is that once you are set you don’t have to mind the application very much – maybe every two to four weeks, just to make sure nothing is getting by that shouldn’t be.

Cons to SpamAssassin? Not really many. Functionality needs to be improved when vacation messaging is involved but that is coming soon. Really, if you use SpamAssassin with Skyway West’s Antivirus solution you are pretty well protected against unwanted email. All Skyway email accounts by default are provided with a basic version of SpamAssassin for free. For a monthly subscription fee the full version of SpamAssassin can be implemented. The subscription also includes vacation messaging. Adding Antivirus means full SpamAssassin is given as a bonus for free.

These are two great options for email filtering. In my experience, SpamAssassin requires far less babysitting than does MailWasher. Still, both programs have their uses. Click here if you think you might be interested in MailWasher, or here for Skyway West SpamAssassin inquiries, or you can directly contact our Sales team at sales@skywaywest.com or 604-482-1225.

Got a question or an idea for a topic you would like to see covered in one of my upcoming blog posts? Write to support@skywaywest.com and sound off. I’ll do what I can to address your questions or concerns either personally in a reply email or on the blog. Until next month, take care.

–Wes


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