Putting a lid on spam

We’ve all shared the same moment. We click on our e-mail inbox and come face to face with promises of great sex or unclaimed money in Ghana with the touch of a hyperlink. These types

We’ve all shared the same moment.

We click on our e-mail inbox and come face to face with promises of great sex or unclaimed money in Ghana with the touch of a hyperlink.

These types of e-mail messages – with unknown senders and subversive messages are trying to sell us products we don’t want – are labeled spam.

“I understand that companies need to advertise their merchandise, but spam just becomes downright annoying after a while because now everyone can do it,” said film and media arts senior Phil Obaza. “I’m constantly having to empty my inbox and it’s all because I took an online survey.”

Spam can be dismissed with the click of the mouse button. But the real pain for students and other Internet users is the volume of unwanted mail that has to be trashed.

Jim Papacostas, director of the help desk and technical support for Computer Services, said the first step to blocking spam on TUmail is adjusting one’s junk mail filters.

“Our e-mail system does a very good job about automatically removing infected attachments,” Papacostas said.

“Messages with infected attachments were a problem a few years back, but since the university has taken a very aggressive approach toward blocking viruses sent through e-mail, getting a virus in this manner has become rare here, but you should still be on the lookout for this type of activity.”

Dan Murray, a reference librarian at Paley Library, uses additional programs to help cut back on the amount of spam in his mailbox.

“I use IMAP, which is a certain mail protocol where I set up my mail application to filter out my spammed mail,” Murray said.

“All you have to do is download a separate application, like Eudora or Entourage, or if you’re using Mac OS X, it’d be Mail.App. You can configure that application to download mail from the mail server to some Web-based mail, like TUmail.”

For some students, spam has been a nightmare, and blocking it is easier said than done.

“I’ve had horrible luck with spam,” Danni Shtraus, a freshman Asian Studies major said. “At first my G-mail [account] had space, which was great. Now, when I check it once a week, it has 300 pieces of spam mail in it.”

Not even members of the 2006 Homecoming Court are immune to the overwhelming forces of spam.

“It drives me absolutely insane,” said Pamela Adewoyin. “I’m the secretary of the NAACP, so I have important mails coming in, and sometimes I miss them because I’m trying to delete all this spam. I know there are blockers, but some spam still gets through.”

Despite the grim realities, there are ways students can cut down on the amount of spam that finds its way into their accounts.

“It’s a good idea to pick an uncommon e-mail address, not like ‘YourName@temple.edu,'” Murray said. “Make it a little bit unusual. Having a screen name like ‘tua12345’ for TUmail will cut down on your spam.”

Murray also suggested using different software on your computer or downloading applications online.

“Get a good mail application that filters out junk mail,” Murray said.

“Look for third party utilities, which are free. If you go to download.com or any kind of free software download Web site, you can find really good third party applications that enhance the mail application and even do additional filtering for spam.”

According to Papacostas, the amount of viruses being transmitted by spam or other means is shrinking thanks to a new mandate imposed by Computer Services protecting all residence halls with Symantec AntiVirus and the corporate firewall software.

“This policy has been extremely effective,” he said. “A couple years back before this mandate, entire residence hall networks had to be shut down to control the spread of viruses and Trojans.”

“We still see a lot of infected systems that students bring to our PC clinic – a large number from students not living on campus.

“Last year about 33 percent of the systems brought to campus in the fall by students moving into residence halls were infected; this year it has been about 24 percent, so we’re seeing improvement.”

Marta Rusek can be reached at mrusek@temple.edu.

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