Top 10 Ways to Survive SpamAssassin
By Dori Friend
In honor of David Letterman, possibly the best known Top
Ten guru of our time, below is a Top Ten list of How
To Survive SpamAssassin.
First, a review:
The Internet spam filters work by reviewing incoming email
and checking the file for certain factors. Depending
on what these filters find or dont find, points are
added to or taken away from a scoring system.
These filters (you may be familiar with such names as SpamAssassin,
Bogofilter, and SpamProbe) look for certain patterns in
your email, and assigns "spam points" depending
on certain words, phrases, or even colors! If your score
is 5.0 or higher, your email subject line may be edited
and "* SPAM*" appears at the start of your email,
or your email is redirected to a bulk type of
mailbox (how RUDE)!
The key point to remember about the numbers is this: the
lesser the score the better (kind of like golf)! If we were
to categorize the two primary areas where spam filters err,
they would be in the areas of false negatives
and false positives. A false negative is when
an email that is indeed spam gets through the filter, and
a false positive is when a legitimate email gets caught
in the filtering system.
The point then, is to ensure that legitimate emails are
structured in a way that will allow them to pass
this test, and so without further delay (
the Top Ten Ways To Survive SpamAssassin:
Watch what you place in your subject line
The subject line is one area of your e-mail that is scrutinized.
For example, 2.86 points will be added if the phrase To:
(username appears at the front of the subject). If the word
FREE appears in caps, 1.10 points are added. If there is
a lot of white space in the subject line, you get 2.64 points
added to your score.
Take advantage of being a Newsletter
If your email is a newsletter, you get .22 points taken
off your score. If the subject line has a date in it, you
can take off .48 points. You can take off one full point
if the subject contains a newsletter header!
Be a welcome guest - Have your recipients add you to their
By doing this, you wont have to go through the SpamAssassin
checklist at all you proceed directly to GO
and get your $200!!!!! (Remember MONOPOLY?)
Size does matter - keep your message size in a range
of 20K to 40K
A good amount of spam is under 20K, so you can actually
get .71 taken from your score if your message in within
the 20K to 40K range.
youre the government poll your
Use a Spam Checker to test your message. Wink,
wink, I know that is why you are here ;)
Confirm your opt-in clients
This will help in the event that you need to verify you
are not spamming, but that people you are sending email
to want to receive the information you are sending them.
One way to do this is to send your recipients an e-mail
after they have opted in at you site, again
to have them confirm that yes, you have permission to
talk to them.
Be CAREFUL with CAPS
Too many capital letters can add .21 points to your score,
so ONLY USE THEM WHEN YOU HAVE TO!
Calm down on those Hyperlinks
If you are going to use a hyperlink, make sure you put
the almost forgotten http:// in there to you get
1.28 points added to your score if you dont!
Dont use the same e-mail software that spammers
Duh! SpamAssassin and other filtering systems are aware
of some of the favorite e-mail tools of professional spammers
and they tack on as many as 3 points if you use such programs
as jpfree or StormPost. Be sure to check with ISPs to
see what programs are constantly being added to their
Color Me Boring
Too many colors can cost you too. SpamAssasin adds .21
points for blue, .33 points for red and .44 for Magenta
(this should be much higher for an annoying color like
Magenta). Watch the background color too...anything other
than white adds .317 points to your score. Just for the
record, Black wont add or take away any points.
And a BONUS Beware The Blacklist!
Blacklists are databases of known spanners that ISPs regularly
check. You may have unknowingly been added to a blacklist
if one of your recipients clicked on the this is
spam button (what were they thinking)? If you are
blacklisted, contact the server provider immediately.
Remember, Anti-Spam software, is a moving target. Similar
to Virus Protection Software, anti-spam software is only
as good as the most recent activity. To be sure, the filters
themselves are not perfect and often times they err on
being over protective.
A good number of them have even become quite aggressive
as of late, and the number of spam filtering options is
growing as well. As many as 150 companies now offer spam
filtering products. The spam filter technology is getting
For example, some servers (known as challenge systems)
send e-mail back to the original sender and require a
reply before they forward the email onto the account holder.
The idea here is that a machine cannot reply to a request
for specific information, so if the email is genuine it
will be answered and then forwarded. America Online recently
announced a new spam filter that can actually learn
the preferences of each of their subscribers. This will
be an interesting technology to watch. Good luck!