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From the beginning of online services, Email has always been one of the most valued and used features. Sadly, as time has passed this wonderful tool has become less effective and even burdensome for many because of unsolicited Emails (spam) and virus issues. Many software tools are available to deal with these issues on your computer; some even work quite well. While Email filtering can be done as a client solution, in or in conjunction with your Email client software, we feel that a server-based solution is more practical. With a server-based solution users will not need to download all of their mail and then determine which Email is undesirable and effectively just hide that Email. To access the mail filter configuration: Mail Filter Configuration Site First and foremost in our minds while designing this system was user control. Too much control would require a very complex system. Too little control and some users would miss valuable, desired Email. We feel we have designed a system with just enough control to allow your Email to be a valued tool once again without risking the loss of wanted messages. For years we have filtered thousands of messages each week from known spammers. Now each user will be able to set their filter preferences for each mailbox on our mail servers. We are introducing this system in phases to make sure that everything works for all users.

How it Works

The OWT Mail Filtering system offers the following basic features:

  • Virus scanning. This is NOT user configured. All Email is scanned for known viruses and the system is kept as up-to-date as possible. Even though OWT will be scanning and deleting known viruses at the mail server level we still strongly suggest all Windows users have up-to-date antivirus software installed on their systems.
  • Spam Scoring. All Email is scanned for known spam-lke attributes and scored. Thousands of rules are checked and each will have a score that ultimately contributes to the final "spam score" for each Email. Many Email clients can recognize this scoring system and aid in the client-based recognition of spam.
  • Filter Administration. Each OWT mail account may have a filter and this filter may be easily administered via a web-based administration system. Here you can set how aggressive you wish to filter your Email. You may set a threshold (score) for dropping mail altogether, accepting or storing suspected spam in an alternate mailbox (that we like to call a "spambox").
  • Exception List. Your filter can be overridden by entries in your exception list. Allow or deny Emails from any address or domain.

Spam Tutorial

Before you deal with the spam problem using the OWT Mail Filter you need to fully understand what it is, why it exists and other ways to deal with spam. This tutorial will be kept very concise in the hope that you will actually read it.

What is Spam? Spam is known by a number of definitions but essentially spam is just Email that you did not ask to receive and do not want. Often when your purchase products or request information from various online sites they will ask you if it is OK to send you additional information periodically. This is not spam. However, if they do not give you a way to stop this periodic Email then it does become spam. If you choose to do business with a particular organization and give them your Email address and they send you an Email this is not spam either. You may not have asked for it, nor did you expect it but if you disclose your Email address you essentially give that organization permission to contact you in this manner. If this organization does not make available a means (via a web form or by simply replying to the Email) to remove you from this distribution list then future Emails may be considered spam as well. Spam is commonly known by a more formal, and less colloquial, name: Unsolicited Commercial Email or UCE.

What is the Purpose of Spam? Initially spam was easy to understand - the sender just wanted you to buy something. Now many of these messages are just gibberish with a cryptic link to be removed or to contact the sender (supposedly). The sender is more concerned with identifying live Email addresses that are actively checked and selling those addresses than anything else. Essentially, the low cost of sending out bulk Email has made it possible for spammers to ignore any kind of targeting and just Email any addresses they can round up - or worse yet guess at. Yes, much of the spam received today is sent to addresses speculatively - the sender just guesses at your address! All domains can be easily looked up on the Internet and so spammers just guess at common Email addresses and send Email. If the mail does not bounce then the address is live and ready for a blast of promotions.

Spam vs. Scams While some spam is sent by legitimate businesses simply trying to convince you to buy their product a growing amount of Email is now being dedicated to deceiving the recipient into providing some sort of personal information - usually credit card information - or to some other fraudulent act. This is called "phishing" and is becoming a real problem. The sender will often purport to represent a company you likely to business with (your ISP , phone company or local cable or satellite provider) and request that you update your billing information or some other ruse to obtain your credit card number. No company should request that you do this sort of thing online and if they do it should be through some verifiable means that you are familiar with. Note that OWT will never send you any such Email - if we need information from you we will call you or Email you only to ask you to call us. A simple rule to remember is to never engage in any financial transaction online that you did not initiate.

What Can You Do About Spam? Of course, we expect our mail filter will assist you immensely in your ongoing battle against spam. We are convinced that this tool will reduce your spam to a more tolerable level. It will NOT eliminate spam. Spammers are not stupid - they are aware of anti-spam techniques and devise their messages to thwart our efforts. We update our product as a countermeasure but during the battle some spam is bound to penetrate the filter. In addition, spam can be worded carefully to resemble a normal personal communication and no amount of filtering will ever catch that sort of thing without risking the loss of legitimate and wanted Email. There are certain actions you can take to minimize the spam you receive and to also keep from making the problem worse. Here are a few suggestions: Never give out your Email address to anyone you don't know or do business with. Never reply to a spam message to gripe or request that you be removed from a list unless you know that the organization is legitimate and will likely comply with your wishes rather than selling your now validated Email to others. Never gripe to the authority at a particular domain that the Email "appears" to be from. Often the Email really can from another source or that Email authority is the spammer and you will just validate your Email address. Set a good example for others in using good Email "style". Always include a subject in your Emails and avoid lengthy signatures with cute phrases and numerous web links included. Spell check your Email before sending and try to use a text formatted rather than HTML formatted Email when possible. Be tolerant of the small amount of spam that makes it to you (after using our filter) as no effort will ever eliminate all spam without filtering desirable Email as well.

What is OWT Doing to Battle Spam?

We constantly modify our mail filter to adapt to filter new spam concepts. This is a never-ending battle but we are winning more than we lose. Yes, some spam will get through but we feel this is now at a tolerable level and that will always be our goal. Forwarding what spam does get through to OWT only slows our efforts so please just delete it. More OWT resources are dedicated to Email and spam reduction that any other service. It is very important to us. In the past few months we have implemented a great deal more hardware and software to better cope with this growing problem and you have our word that we will continue to be diligent toward this task. We know invite you to use our powerful mail filter and urge you to take the time to configure the product properly or call our tech support to assist you. A properly configured mail filter can make Email useful again!