Spam Killers

Back in March, I was annoyed about viruses, worms, andother productions from the lowest level of hackerdom. But I realized thatviruses don’t get me nearly as mad as spam does. What is it about spam thatmakes smoke come out of my ears?

To begin with, right now, I’d say that 90 percent ofthe mail I get is spam. I would reserve the first level of hell for allspammers just for the waste of time that spam imposes on me. But that’s notpainful enough. I move all spammers to the second (and hotter) level because ofhow stupid the spam senders seem to think I am. The sales pitches from mostspam could only be effective with people who would suffocate if you told themto close their mouths to cut down on the drool. Think of the consequences: With90 percent of mail being spam, it’s as if most of my e-mail begins “DearIdiot:”. Not that the spam senders are all that bright themselves. I’mcurrently getting e-mails both to improve my “male enhancements” and to “increasemy breast size” (to quote two pieces of spam I received this morning). This isjust poor customer research.

I am, however, willing to let one group of spammersstay at the first level. I’m willing to reserve the first level of hell for thespammers that try to sell me pornography. Those entrepreneurs are onlysuggesting that I have poor impulse control (and do express a certain naïvefaith in my “physical abilities,” to quote another piece of spam).

I have more levels of hell reserved for these people.The next level in my spam hell is reserved for the people in Sierra Leone whobelieve that I’m not only an idiot but that I’m also a crook. If I only sendthem all of my banking information, I can share in the proceeds of a theft ofseveral million dollars.

The lowest (and hottest) level of spam hell, I reservefor the people and organizations that fight spam control on the basis that“they’re serving their customers.” If that were true, these organizations wouldsupport flags on spam that would make it easily identifiable—and easilyblocked. In fact, if there’s one distinguishing characteristic of most spamproviders, it’s that they’re constantly looking for ways to bypass the blocksthat I put in their way. No matter how clearly, I indicate that I don’t wanttheir mail, they look for ways to ensure that I have to download it. They dothis, of course, by finding more and more interesting ways to lie about thecontents of their e- ail: It’s not about Viagra, it’s about v1@g.ar.a.

Lately I’ve been using SpamBayes (http://spambayes.sourceforge.net). The Outlook add-in version analyzes my mail, payingattention to what I call spam and what I call “acceptable mail.” Based on thisanalysis, SpamBayes analyzes incoming mail and assigns a likelihood of “spamness”to the e-mail.  ou can choose to assign e-mail with a high “spamness” to aseparate mailbox. SpamBayes is doing a great job for me: Only 3-4 percent ofthe spam gets through. SpamBayes is also free (something that I like).

You may have noticed that while spam hasn’t turned upin past issues of Smart Access, security has been one of our recurring themes,along with Access 2003. With Access 2003, we’ve been providing one article perissue (more or less) to familiarize you with what’s new in the latest versionof our favorite development tool.

The discussions of Access 2003 and security have cometogether on occasion because, quite frankly, what many developers will noticefirst about Access 2003 are the enhancements (?) to security. I add thequestion mark because I’ve often found that the restrictions implied bysecurity are more annoying than helpful. I also don’t like it when my softwaredoesn’t seem to trust me. Unfortunately for me, paying attention to security isnow unavoidable.

Two of our regular contributors demonstrate howimportant security has become. In last month’s issue, Rick Dobson, in hisarticle on code signing, pointed out that some companies will be consideringmigrating to Access 2003 just to gain access to its new security features. Contributingeditor Garry Robinson spent the better part of last year writing a book onnothing but security in all versions of Access. This month’s issue includes areview of Garry’s book by another regular contributor, Danny Lesandrini. Garryhas also provided an article that describes how to deal with and take advantageof Access 2003’s security. Armed with Rick’s article last month and Garry’sarticle this month, these two issues of Smart Access will tell you everythingthat you need to migrate successfully to Access 2003. Even if it doesn’t trustyou.

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