TUCOWS ARTICLE

Tucows Editorial - How To Fight Spam with ChoiceMail

Part 2 of our 3-part series on email and SPAM. Find out how ChoiceMail, from Digiportal Software, Inc., can leave your inbox squeaky clean.
Published: Dec 3, 2007
Author: Nebojsa Djogo
Related OS: Windows
Tucows Editorial Feature

Effectively Deal With Spam

by Nebojsa Djogo of DigiPortal


Once upon a time in a land called inet-topia there was no spam. Everyone was happy, but the happiness did not last forever. Spammers invaded the happy land and once happy and trustful citizens turned into a skeptic crowd...

Back to our time and our issues with spam we will get back to the inet-topians later.

As I mentioned in my previous article it is quite easy to spot a spam message in your inbox. Our brain uses several different techniques o recognize a spam message. Sometimes one has to read through and dig a little deeper to figure it out, but ultimately we can tell with 100% certainty if a message is spam or not. Performing the same for an unknown person would prove a bit more difficult.

This job is not as easy for computers. It is not easy to create a program that can "think" the same way we do. Filters and Rules that try to "guess" if certain message is spam or not. More often than not a good message winds up in the junk box and a bad one in your inbox.

Imagine that you are manually filtering messages for someone. You do not know that this person is a lawyer for example and the email you are reviewing is a not about the case this lawyer is working on and it has something to do with mortgage company and its practices. You will find quotes from the mortgage company in there with offers and so on so that the lawyer has the full overview of the case. If you were to glance over some of these emails you may mistakenly delete a good message thinking that this is another one of the mortgage rate spam "offers". If you knew that this person was a lawyer it would be better, but it is hard to universally classify spam based on the content of the message alone.

ChoiceMail - The Real Solution To Spam

Identity verification or challenge/response systems are the definitive answer to spam.

DigiPortal Software, Inc. is a company that creates ChoiceMail. An anti spam product that primarily uses the challenge/response system to fight off spam, but has many other built in features to help the user along.

ChoiceMail is the anti-spam program that puts you in complete control of your mailbox. It lets you treat your Inbox the same way you treat your front door.

You decide who gets in and who doesn't.

ChoiceMail quarantines any remaining, unrecognized mail. It automatically sends a "registration request" to each unknown sender that directs them to a web page where they are asked for their name, email address and reason for contacting you. They also are asked to complete a task, which is easy for a person but impossible for a computer. This process alone eliminates most junk email since spammers cannot respond to the registration request.

Here is the view of the main ChoiceMail Window showing the "Unknown Senders" list or the list of email addresses and their messages that have been asked to verify they are human.

When a sender does register, ChoiceMail alerts you with a pop-up message. Shown below.

You decide whether to allow the sender to communicate with you or not. You can turn this registration feature off if you wish, but most users love it because it puts the burden of identifying unknown mail back where it belongs, on the sender.

We have done studies and determined that people will happily verify they are human if that means that their email will reach the recipient faster and get rid of spam.

Initially, ChoiceMail creates a whitelist of all the email addresses in your address book. new, ChoiceMail adds them to the list, so it is always up-to-date.

Only new addresses, that never sent you an email before will get stopped and asked to register. If you contact someone first the email address gets automatically added to the whitelist so that the person can respond and not get asked to validate themselves.

It sends email from anyone on your whitelist straight to your inbox. It also lets you write rules to accept mail you may want, even from people not on your whitelist. (If elephants are your passion, simply tell ChoiceMail to accept any message containing the word "elephant" and it will.)

It is far easier to explain to the computer what you want than what you do not want.

This is of course optional - no spam will come through and every verified message will get through.

ChoiceMail contains tools that let you send obvious spam straight to the junk box. Unlike spam filters, these tools are not the whole product's just an enhancement to make your life easier. You can also write your own rules to block mail if you wish.

Of course you can always manually approve/reject, delete or add new email addresses or manipulate the lists you already have.

The main goal of ChoiceMail is to actually forget that you have it. Good anti-spam program is not something you wish to fiddle with on a daily basis. That is why you got it in the first place - to get on with your daily work and read your email without the fear of losing important message and without having to spend time weeding through spam in your inbox.

ChoiceMail in its latest iteration fully supports Windows Vista and has decoupled the processing or the rains" of the program and the viewing or the "client" of the application into two parts.

While this is completely transparent to the user it allows ChoiceMail to work in the background even if multiple people are logged on to the same computer. ChoiceMail will allow each login to have their own settings and sender lists.

You can try ChoieMail free of charge for 30 days and see if it suits you. Just visit the DigiPortal's website at www.digiportal.com and download the software.

Automatic setup wizard will set everything up if you are using one of the most popular email clients like Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail or Eudora. Any other email client can be set up manually in a snap as well. Tutorials for most can be found on our website.

You really have to try the software to get a real picture about how it works and how effective it is.

Again - I am obviously cheerleading this particular solution as I am part of the team that built it and know how well designed and thought of it is, but in the last five or so years that I have ChoiceMail on my systems - I have never lost a piece of important email and my mailboxes are always "squeaky clean".

As I said before. Together with SPF, Sender-Id and possibly other forms of verifying the sender's authenticity. This IS the answer to spam problems!

...and happiness returned to inet-opia and they lived happily ever after.

Stay tuned next week for ways that business can deal with SPAM effectively!

Part 1 - Email Basics and Spam


About Nebojsa Djogo

Nebojsa Djogo has been in the computer industry since 1984. He is the president of Software River Solutions, Inc. - a small software company based in Ottawa, Canada. For the past six years he has been the VP of software development at DigiPortal Software and has been working on the ChoiceMail project since its beginning. He currently lives and works in Ottawa, Canada

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