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Tightening the noose on spam
University introducing new approach next week

Aug. 9, 2007
By Sean O'Malley

More than 60 million e-mail messages are sent to Ohio University e-mail accounts in a typical week. About 94 percent of those messages -- over 56 million -- are rejected outright. Of the remaining four million messages, about half are delivered and half are flagged as spam. That's a lot of spam and, unfortunately, the potential exists for the occasional legitimate message to be quarantined and deleted without being seen by its intended recipient.

Five ways to reduce spam
  1. Use a separate e-mail account (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) when you shop online or sign up for Web-based services. That way, if your information ends up being sold to a spammer, it won't include your primary e-mail address.

  2. Avoid publishing your e-mail address on public Web forums such as chat sites, blogs or discussion boards. If you must provide your primary e-mail address, then obfuscate it.  For example, use 'omalREMOVEley@ohio.edu' rather than 'omalley@ohio.edu'.

  3. Look for opt-out boxes when doing business online. Most companies include check boxes on their Web forms that ask for permission to share your information with "trusted partners." Make sure to choose whichever option restricts access to your e-mail address.

  4. Avoid opening spam messages in the first place. Spammers often include links to small graphics hosted on their servers that are designed to confirm that the message was opened. Simply viewing such a message is enough to let the spammer know that your address is a "good" one. You also can circumvent this tactic by telling your mail client to prompt you before loading remote images.

  5. Never reply or respond to spam, even if the message includes a "Click here to stop receiving mail from us" link. Following such a link just confirms for the spammer that your address is a good one.

Find more tips from the company that makes the university's anti-virus software: www.mcafee.com/us/threat_center/

Source: Office of Information Technology

Instead of asking Ohio University's e-mail users to wade through all the messages sent their way, the university's Office of Information Technology implemented a spam quarantine system. The office has announced that beginning Monday, Aug. 13, it will activate a new system that not only traps potential spam messages but also allows recipients to decide which, if any, of those messages they want to keep. 

Details were shared at July and August sessions introducing the new system to the university community. 

Under the system, each Oak account holder will receive a weekly e-mail summary that lists the subjects and senders of all spam messages caught during that week. Each message in the summary will include a "Not Spam" link that the recipient can click to release that message from quarantine. Individuals also will be able to use their Oak ID and password to log directly into a spam quarantine Web page to view all messages targeted toward them that have been quarantined. By default, quarantined messages will be deleted after 14 days. In other words, if users choose to simply disregard the weekly summary, the quarantined messages will be deleted automatically after 14 days.

"This approach lets us tighten the noose on spammers without risking lost messages," said Don Hone, systems administrator for the Office of Information Technology. "People will be able to see at a glance if any messages in their quarantine don't belong there."

The quarantine will be easy to use, since the e-mail summaries will arrive automatically and be readable in any e-mail client. "It won't matter whether you use Mulberry, Webmail or another program like Thunderbird or Outlook," Hone said. "You'll always be able to see at a glance if there are any quarantined messages you need to deal with." 

For questions about the new Spam Quarantine feature, please contact the OIT Service Desk at servicedesk@ohio.edu or 740-593-1222.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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