Top Rated and Best Spam Blockers of 2015 with Reviews
Email ought to be the ultimate productivity tool. At its best, it’s a fast and effective means of communication, perfectly suited to business needs and sending and receiving messages between friends and family. At work, it remains the simplest and quickest way to share files and inform colleagues of new developments, since almost everyone is sat in front of a computer with an email programme running for the majority of their working day – and even outside of it, thanks to the proliferation of laptops, tablets, smartphones and other devices. If you want to tell someone something, email is very often the best way to do it.
Spam threatens to undermine the convenience of email, reducing a high-speed freeway to a messy and congested lane. That can have major impacts on you, your family, your business and more.
Almost anyone who uses email has encountered spam (the word, by the way, is a reference to a Monty Python sketch about the cheap canned meat, which was at the time ubiquitous). Spam simply means junk or unsolicited email. It can take many forms, as anyone with even the best spam filter is likely to realise. A lot of it is mainly annoying – adverts and updates for products or events in which you have no interest. Ploughing through these isn’t just frustrating, though – it can be a drain on productivity. Whatever else spam is, it’s a waste of time.
Pornography, Phishing and Fraud
Beyond these tedious but otherwise innocuous messages, though, there is an unpleasant world of the obscene, the criminal and the dangerous. Spam filters have come a long way since the late 90s and early 2000s, when email accounts would be bombarded with pornography, but adverts still get through – not something that many adults want to see, let alone expose their children to.
Then there are the adverts for pharmacies that deal in fake or generic drugs, outside of any regulatory framework; the phishing attempts of greater or less sophistication, that redirect you to a site to harvest your financial details; the messages designed to deliver viruses, worms and keyloggers; and far more.
The vast majority of spam is sent by criminal gangs using networks of hijacked computers. Spam is purely a money-making enterprise for these gangs, and it’s a big business – one that continues at your expense. The software targeting end users and their computers is becoming ever-more sophisticated, since if even a tiny fraction of the emails get through and are clicked on, the profits for the criminals can be huge.
The result is a never-ending arms race between ISPs and users, on the one hand, and spam network controllers, on the other. If one tactic starts to fail the spammers will try another. Spam filter software plays a vital part in protecting us – our minds, our computers and our wallets – from the effects of unrestricted spam. Although no spam software can ever be 100 percent effective, a good filter will remove the vast majority of unsolicited email, giving you peace of mind and more time to use your computer productively.
What to look for in Spam Filter Software
Spam can range from the blunt and simple to the incredibly sophisticated, as can the approach behind it. One of the problems for the end user is blocking only those emails that are unwanted, while allowing through the ones you want to receive. This means there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution: you need a customisable filter that you can adjust, should you need to. You do not want a spam filter that is either over-zealous, or does not do its job well enough. What that means in practice will differ depending on your email usage, the applications you run, what sites and newsletters you’ve signed up for in the past, and more. In fact, the spam you receive may have nothing to do with your own computer usage: email lists are commonly hacked or sold by other organisations for use by spammers, so you may just have got unlucky.
The most effective spam software is flexible, giving you a high degree of control over what is accepted and rejected. For example, depending on the level of spam you receive, it may be appropriate to use either a white list or a black list to control what comes to your inbox. There may also be criteria to block certain offending IP addresses, to check the email address itself (much spam comes from random, throwaway addresses) and to compare the subject line and content of the email with emails that other users have marked as spam. Ideally, your spam filter will be configurable. There should also be a way of creating new rules to limit new kinds of spam that you may have started receiving.
Spam email contains all kinds of threats, and your spam filter should protect you from all of them. This means intercepting and quarantining emails that look like they may contain viruses, trojans, worms and other malware – though not deleting them without checking with you first! The best programmes will be able to raise a red flag over the content of an email itself: to the untrained eye, it may look just like a normal email from your bank or services provider, but there may be malicious links embedded in it that will take you to another site or download unwanted software to your computer.
You will probably use one main email client, but there could be several others that you, family members or your colleagues use on a regular basis. Any spam filter you invest in should be compatible with all of the webmail or other clients you use – otherwise you’ll just find you’re only seeing the benefits in one place.
The best spam filters will enable you to reclaim email as the fast and convenient means of communication it was always meant to be – without worrying you’ll be getting messages you don’t want.