Spam, it's getting worse again

Email…what a wonderful tool running amok. Much of our work today is based in email. When you find, however, that your inbox is cluttered with spam and unsolicited intrusions, you start to wonder if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Most of the mail on the internet today is spam. We protect you from most of it. Not all. You have tools at your disposal to block more. Unfortunately, the more you tighten your filters, the more good emails get caught in the nets. (sigh) Thus we are losing confidence in a communication means that used to be very reliable.

In spite of our approaches, new types of spam keep coming through. A year or so ago, we were dealing with multitudes of smut and offers to enlarge. We installed new software to filter that out. Then we had credit card and eBay scams, phishing ploys enticing us to update our accounts and offer up our access codes to financial data. Currently, we’re fending off stock deals, masked by randomly generated names and subject headings.

Consider this from a recent Computer World article:

Computer security analysts who fight spam face the same thankless task as goalkeepers: They don’t get much credit for the unsolicited e-mail they stop, only demerits for the ones that get through. But those few messages that wriggle past increasingly sophisticated filters constitute the greatest threats on the Internet. The sheer volume of spam threatens to bring the Internet to a crisis point. The amount of all e-mail traffic that is spam has recently risen to 85%, according to the Messaging Anti-Abuse Work Group in San Francisco….

Who knows the precise percentage, but those numbers are consistent with our experience.

Fighting spam is difficult in an academic environment. We value academic freedom and are committed to free exchange of ideas. Rarely do we block access to information, and only when it poses a threat to our network.

Yet if the spammers continue to have their way, they may force us to develop new strategies for communicating and messaging. It might mean that we change to another means of messaging. It almost certainly requires resources and ITS time and effort.

Set your own spam filter at This is a free service to the PSU community. Outlook users can also set a second filter under the Tools menu.

ITS will continue to keep pace with developments in the anti-spam industry. We know this is important to all of us.

4 thoughts on “Spam, it's getting worse again

  1. While their certainly is a rising crisis when it comes to stopping SPAM, I feel that if I only get 2-3 SPAM messages a day (which I currently get) that's okay with me. Not a big deal. I have accounts through other services and they all offer varying amounts of SPAM detection and protection. I must get 300+ SPAM e-mails a day at my Google account, but then again, I haven't had one delivered to my INBOX in over 4 months, they are all put in my SPAM box. I have a hotmail and yahoo account, and those too get a lot of mail, and they choose to dump most of it into my inbox. I have my own mail at:, which is an address that is hardly given out, and I receive 30+ SPAM e-mails a day on that. So, when looking at what Plymouth gives me for SPAM protection compared to other similar enterprise systems, I would have to say that we are doing a good job.

    I am however a little worried about your 3rd to last paragraph. You mention, "Yet if the spammers continue to have their way, they may force us to develop new strategies for communicating and messaging. It might mean that we change to another means of messaging.“ What other methods do you propose? What other options will be widely accessible to users both on and off campus? Finally, will users want to use those new methods and their inherent issues? I think not.

    I think that you need to stay focused on blocking the 1,000s of e-mails that you get bombarded with each hour of every day. Also, some spam is not only the fault of the system, or spammers, but people who use their e-mail address too freely. If you restrict the use of your address, it greatly reduces the crap that gets sent to it. My solution: a no-reply e-mail system like:, or a non-compulsory log in system like: when browsing other sites. We should also focus on educating users of these alternative ways to gain access to the things online that may not respect the privacy of our private e-mail addresses.

    A Student’s Opinion,
    Liam Jewell and my blog at:

  2. A great piece by Dwight. My only concern is how the increase in protection is being compounded by institutions and businesses concurrently trying to provide a "spam safe" environment. Right now I, as the Alumni Director, get daily on average between 5-10 legitimate email messages "bounced" before they even arrive in my mailbox. These legitimate messages from alumni are caught using our latest and greatest technology. The alum sending the email communication does not understand, nor should they, that they just happened to send an email from their hotmail account that was routed through a server in DeMoines, IA that happens to have been identified as a enabler of SPAM. All they see is that they sent and email to their alma mater and it was summarilary returned without explanation. Add this to the fact that we, as professionals, often communicate with others in our field at other institutions via email. Now I am blocking email messages from them and they are blocking messages from me. This communication breakdown is unacceptable. We need to do a better job at balancing the risks with the rewards. If I can not effectively communicate with alumni, then I can not do my job. Just one more opinion. Thanks.

Comments are closed.