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Mail Filter Documentation

Introduction

Unsolicited Commercial Email - better known as spam is a tremendous problem these days. We all hate it. Most providers have taken steps to minimize it as have individual users but in the end the spammers will always be one step ahead and will design their messages to look as much like standard correspondance as possible so that no filter can eliminiate it.

While we must all tolerate some amount of spam there are certainly things that can be done to keep the amount of spam under control. Spam filtering can be achieved in 3 ways:

  1. Inbox filtering by the mail client. This requires either your mail software or an add-on product installed on your computer. This method provides the most flexibility generally and is most often rules-based which means that you will setup specific rules that the filter will apply when examining your Email. These may be simple or complex and the product will generally include some proven rules to assist you in getting this started. Other filters, known as bayesian filters, will learn as they go by interacting with you in determining what is and what is not spam. Once trained this method is reasonably effective but both of these methods require constant tweaking to work well. In addition, this method requires that the user download all of their Email, including the spam, to be evaluated.
  2. Blocking known spammers at the mail server - not allowing them to even connect. This is very effective but spammers move around a great deal and so only a small amount of spam is really blocked this way these days. OWT does this and maintains it agressively.
  3. Implementing a single, rules and/or bayesian filter at the mail server level to provide spam scoring and filtering at the same time the message is scanned for viruses. Scoring rules are implemented for the entire group and each user can determine how strictly they wish to filter based upon this score. While not as flexible for each individual, this represents the most powerful approach as a single entity can administer the rules for the benefit of the entire group. This is the approach we have taken with the OWT Mail Filter but we have taken it a bit further by allowing the user to keep their spam in another mailbox for review just in case it is, in fact, not spam. None of these methods are perfect.

Since spammers are willing to butcher their messages almost beyond recognition no spam filter can catch everything. We have tried to design the OWT Mail Filter to be as easy to use and understand as possible. However, spam filtering is a complex issue and you will need to understand some basic concepts to be able to configure the filter properly for your needs. If you are just fed up with spam and want to reduce it without learning any of this just call our tech support staff at 783-3454 and we will enable a basic filter for you. This will reduce your spam substantially but it will not be optimal.

This filter is a very powerful tool. Along with the power to minimize the unsolicited Email you receive comes the power to reject mail you may wish to see. Make sure you understand how the filter works before entering your settings

The Basics

To access the OWT Mail Filter Configuration Tool point your web browser to http://mailfilter.owt.com The first screen you will see will have updates and some other useful information with a "Login Now" link that will take you to the actual configuration system. When you click on the "Login Now" you will be prompted for your OWT username and password. Make sure that you enter just your username (eg. joeuser) and not your Email address (eg. joeuser@owt.com)! The configuration system does have online help but we suggest you read through this guide before making your settings.

Your Spambox

One of the most powerful features of our mail filter is the spam box. This account acts as a safety net for Email that you wanted but was formatted such that it resembled spam. This is also an invaluable tool during the process of adjusting your mail filter to your optimal settings. In a nutshell your spambox:

  1. Is free to all OWT customers. We don't want you to have to pay more to control spam. Order it here.
  2. Is an additional mailbox (mail storage account) for Email that our filter "thinks" is spam.
  3. IIs automatically expired so you don't even have to delete the mail you find in there. We will do this once each week and delete mail older than two weeks in your spambox.

Checking Your Spambox Other than the automatic expiration differences, your spambox is a regular Email account. You can check your Email in one of the following ways (in the order we suggest):

  1. Using our web mail system. This allows you to scan your spambox easily and forward any wanted mail to your regular account. You can also delete an entire page at a time.
  2. Using Pine or Alpine on our pop3 server. This is for you Unix freaks mostly but you can telnet or ssh to oneworld.owt.com, login and you will enter Pine - a very powerful character mode Email program.
  3. Add the account to your normal POP3 mail client. Add the account to your Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, Netscape, Mozilla, Entourage or other mail client. We don't like this option as well as this way you have to download the mail.

If you forward spam from our web mail system or from Pine to your regular account our spam filter will deduct several points from the spam score to make sure it is delivered normally.

The Exception List

One of the most powerful features of the OWT Mail Filter is the exception list. The exception list can be configured to:

  • Allow messages recognized as spam that otherwise would have been dropped or stored in your spam box to pass through to your mail account.
  • Drop messages that might otherwise have passed through the filter.
  • Route messages that may or may not have passed through the filter to your spambox. Note: For the filter to evaluate the exceptions list the message first must be scored as spam by our system. This exception list will not be a way of dropping certain addresses from your Email unless the message is scored as spam.

Reference