Anti-spam techniques

techniques to prevent e-mail spam
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"Spam blacklist" redirects here. For the Wikipedia spam control mechanism, see Wikipedia:Spam blacklist.

Various anti-spam techniques are used to prevent email spam (unsolicited bulk email).

No technique is a complete solution to the spam problem, and each has trade-offs between incorrectly rejecting legitimate email (false positives) vs. not rejecting all spam (false negatives) – and the associated costs in time and effort.

Anti-spam techniques can be broken into four broad categories: those that require actions by individuals, those that can be automated by email administrators, those that can be automated by email senders and those employed by researchers and law enforcement officials.


Detecting spamEdit

Checking words: false positivesEdit

Main article: Scunthorpe problem

People tend to be much less bothered by spam slipping through filters into their mail box (false negatives), than having desired email ("ham") blocked (false positives). Trying to balance false negatives (missed spams) vs false positives (rejecting good email) is critical for a successful anti-spam system. Some systems let individual users have some control over this balance by setting "spam score" limits, etc. Most techniques have both kinds of serious errors, to varying degrees. So, for example, anti-spam systems may use techniques that have a high false negative rate (miss a lot of spam), in order to reduce the number of false positives (rejecting good email).

Detecting spam based on the content of the email, either by detecting keywords such as "viagra" or by statistical means (content or non-content based), is very popular. Content based statistical means or detecting keywords can be very accurate when they are correctly tuned to the types of legitimate email that an individual gets, but they can also make mistakes such as detecting the keyword "cialis" in the word "specialist" (see also Internet censorship: Over- and under-blocking). Spam originators frequently seek to defeat such measures by employing typographical techniques such as replacing letters with accented variants or alternative characters which appear identical to the intended characters but are internally distinct (e.g., replacing a Roman 'A' with a Cyrillic 'A'), or inserting other characters such as whitespace, nonprinting characters, or bullets into a term to block pattern matching. This introduces an arms race which demands increasingly complex keyword-detection methods.

The content also doesn't determine whether the email was either unsolicited or bulk, the two key features of spam. So, if a friend sends you a joke that mentions "viagra", content filters can easily mark it as being spam even though it is neither unsolicited nor sent in bulk. Non-content base statistical means can help lower false positives because it looks at statistical means vs. blocking based on content/keywords. Therefore, you will be able to receive a joke that mentions "viagra" from a friend.

Lists of sitesEdit

The most popular DNSBLs (DNS Blacklists) are lists of domain names of known spammers, known open relays, known proxy servers, compromised "zombie" spammers, as well as hosts on the internet that shouldn't be sending external emails, such as the end-user address space of a consumer ISP. These are known as "Dial Up Lists", from the time when end users whose computers were "zombieing" spam were connected to the internet with a modem and a phone line.

Spamtraps are often email addresses that were never valid or have been invalid for a long time that are used to collect spam. An effective spamtrap is not announced and is only found by dictionary attacks or by pulling addresses off hidden webpages. For a spamtrap to remain effective the address must never be given to anyone. Some black lists, such as spamcop, use spamtraps to catch spammers and blacklist them.

Enforcing technical requirements of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) can be used to block mail coming from systems that are not compliant with the RFC standards. A lot of spammers use poorly written software or are unable to comply with the standards because they do not have legitimate control of the computer sending spam (zombie computer). So by setting restrictions on the mail transfer agent (MTA) a mail administrator can reduce spam significantly, such as by enforcing the correct fall back of Mail eXchange (MX) records in the Domain Name System, or the correct handling of delays (Teergrube).

End-user techniquesEdit

There are a number of techniques that individuals use to restrict the availability of their email addresses, with the goal of reducing their chance of receiving spam.


Sharing an email address only among a limited group of correspondents is one way to limit the chance that the address will be "harvested" and targeted by spam. Similarly, when forwarding messages to a number of recipients who don't know one another, recipient addresses can be put in the "bcc: field" so that each recipient does not get a list of the other recipients' email addresses.

Address mungingEdit

Main article: Address munging

Email addresses posted on webpages, Usenet or chat rooms are vulnerable to e-mail address harvesting.[1] Address munging is the practice of disguising an e-mail address to prevent it from being automatically collected in this way, but still allow a human reader to reconstruct the original: an email address such as, "", might be written as "no-one at example dot com", for instance. A related technique is to display all or part of the email address as an image, or as jumbled text with the order of characters restored using CSS.

Avoid responding to spamEdit

A common piece of advice is to not to reply to spam messages[2] as spammers may simply regard responses as confirmation that an email address is valid. Similarly, many spam messages contain web links or addresses which the user is directed to follow to be removed from the spammer's mailing list – and these should be treated as dangerous. In any case, sender addresses are often forged in spam messages, so that responding to spam may result in failed deliveries – or may reach completely innocent third parties.

Contact formsEdit

Businesses and individuals sometimes avoid publicising an email address by asking for contact to come via a "contact form" on a webpage – which then typically forwards the information via email. Such forms, however, are sometimes inconvenient to users, as they are not able to use their preferred email client, risk entering a faulty reply address, and are typically not notified about delivery problems. Further, contact forms have the drawback that they require a website with the appropriate technology.

Disable HTML in emailEdit

Main article: HTML email

Many modern mail programs incorporate web browser functionality, such as the display of HTML, URLs, and images.

Avoiding or disabling this feature does not help avoid spam. It may, however, be useful to avoid some problems if a user opens a spam message: offensive images, being tracked by web bugs, being targeted by JavaScript or attacks upon security vulnerabilities in the HTML renderer. Mail clients which do not automatically download and display HTML, images or attachments have fewer risks, as do clients who have been configured to not display these by default.

Disposable email addressesEdit

An email user may sometimes need to give an address to a site without complete assurance that the site owner will not use it for sending spam. One way to mitigate the risk is to provide a disposable email address — an address which the user can disable or abandon which forwards email to a real account. A number of services provide disposable address forwarding. Addresses can be manually disabled, can expire after a given time interval, or can expire after a certain number of messages have been forwarded. Disposable email addresses can be used by users to track whether a site owner has disclosed an address, or had a security breach.[3]

Ham passwordsEdit

Systems that use "ham passwords" ask unrecognised senders to include in their email a password that demonstrates that the email message is a "ham" (not spam) message. Typically the email address and ham password would be described on a web page, and the ham password would be included in the subject line of an email message (or appended to the "username" part of the email address using the "plus addressing" technique). Ham passwords are often combined with filtering systems which let through only those messages that have identified themselves as "ham".[4]

Reporting spamEdit

Main article: Spam reporting

Tracking down a spammer's ISP and reporting the offense can lead to the spammer's service being terminated[5] and criminal prosecution.[6] Unfortunately, it can be difficult to track down the spammer, and while there are some online tools such as SpamCop and Network Abuse Clearinghouse to assist, they are not always accurate. Historically, reporting spam in this way has not played a large part in abating spam, since the spammers simply move their operation to another URL, ISP or network of IP addresses.

In many countries consumers may also forward unwanted and deceptive commercial email to the authorities, e.g. in the US to the email address (spam at maintained by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC),[7] or similar agencies in other countries.[8]

Automated techniques for email administratorsEdit

There are now a large number of applications, appliances, services, and software systems that email administrators can use to reduce the load of spam on their systems and mailboxes. In general these attempt to reject (or "block"), the majority of spam email outright at the SMTP connection stage. If they do accept a message, they will typically then analyze the content further – and may decide to "quarantine" any categorised as spam.


A number of systems have been developed that require domain owners to identify who can send mail. Many of these systems use the DNS to list sites authorized to send email on their behalf spam. While not directly attacking spam, these systems make it much harder for spammers to spoof addresses.

Challenge/response systemsEdit

Another method which may be used by internet service providers, by specialized services or enterprises to combat spam is to require unknown senders to pass various tests before their messages are delivered. These strategies are termed challenge/response systems or C/R. Some view their use as being as bad as spam since they place the burden of spam fighting on legitimate email senders—who it should be noted will often indeed give up at the slightest hindrance. A new implementation of this is done in Channel email.

Checksum-based filteringEdit

Checksum-based filter exploits the fact that the messages are sent in bulk, that is that they will be identical with small variations. Checksum-based filters strip out everything that might vary between messages, reduce what remains to a checksum, and look that checksum up in a database which collects the checksums of messages that email recipients consider to be spam (some people have a button on their email client which they can click to nominate a message as being spam); if the checksum is in the database, the message is likely to be spam.

The advantage of this type of filtering is that it lets ordinary users help identify spam, and not just administrators, thus vastly increasing the pool of spam fighters. The disadvantage is that spammers can insert unique invisible gibberish—known as hashbusters—into the middle of each of their messages, thus making each message unique and having a different checksum. This leads to an arms race between the developers of the checksum software and the developers of the spam-generating software.

Checksum based filtering methods include:

Country-based filteringEdit

Some email servers expect to never communicate with particular countries from which they receive a great deal of spam. Therefore, they use country-based filtering – a technique that blocks email from certain countries. This technique is based on country of origin determined by the sender's IP address rather than any trait of the sender.

DNS-based blacklistsEdit

Main article: DNSBL

DNS-based Blacklists, or DNSBLs, are used for heuristic filtering and blocking. A site publishes lists (typically of IP addresses) via the DNS, in such a way that mail servers can easily be set to reject mail from those sources. There are scores of DNSBLs, each of which reflects different policies: some list sites known to emit spam; others list open mail relays or proxies; others list ISPs known to support spam.

Other DNS-based anti-spam systems list known good ("white") or bad ("black") IPs domains or URLs, including RHSBLs and URIBLs.

URL filteringEdit

Main article: DNSBL § URI DNSBLs

Most spam/phishing messages contain an URL that they entice victims into clicking on. Thus, a popular technique since the early 2000s consists of extracting URLs from messages and looking them up in databases such as Spamhaus' Domain Block List (DBL), SURBL, and URIBL.[9]

Strict enforcement of RFC standardsEdit

Further information: SMTP RFC standards

Analysis of an email's conformation to RFC standards for the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) can be used to judge the likelihood of the message being spam. A lot of spammers use poorly written software or are unable to comply with the standards because they do not have legitimate control of the computer they are using to send spam (zombie computer). By setting tighter limits on the deviation from RFC standards that the MTA will accept, a mail administrator can reduce spam significantly, but all these techniques also run the risk of rejecting mail from older or poorly written or configured servers.

Greeting delay – A sending server is required to wait until it has received the SMTP greeting banner before it sends any data. A deliberate pause can be introduced by receiving servers to allow them to detect and deny any spam-sending applications that do not wait to receive this banner.

Temporary rejection – The greylisting technique is built on the fact that the SMTP protocol allows for temporary rejection of incoming messages. Greylisting temporarily rejects all messages from unknown senders or mail servers – using the standard 4xx error codes.[10] All compliant MTAs will proceed to retry delivery later, but many spammers and spambots will not retry, but move on to the next address in their list rather than waste time re-sending to an address that has already exhibited a problem. The downside of greylisting is that all legitimate messages from first-time senders will experience a delay in delivery. There is also the possibility that some legitimate messages will not be delivered, if a poorly configured or designed (but legitimate) mail server interprets the temporary rejection as a permanent rejection and sends a bounce message to the original sender, instead of following the correct retry process.

HELO/EHLO checkingRFC 5321 says that an SMTP server "MAY verify that the domain name argument in the EHLO command actually corresponds to the IP address of the client. However, if the verification fails, the server MUST NOT refuse to accept a message on that basis." Systems can, however, be configured to

  • Refuse connections from hosts that give an invalid HELO – for example, a HELO that is not an FQDN or is an IP address not surrounded by square brackets.
  • Refusing connections from hosts that give an obviously fraudulent HELO
  • Refusing to accept email whose HELO/EHLO argument does not resolve in DNS

Invalid pipelining – Several SMTP commands are allowed to be placed in one network packet and "pipelined". For example, if an email is sent with a CC: header, several SMTP "RCPT TO" commands might be placed in a single packet instead of one packet per "RCPT TO" command. The SMTP protocol, however, requires that errors be checked and everything is synchronized at certain points. Many spammers will send everything in a single packet since they do not care about errors and it is more efficient. Some MTAs will detect this invalid pipelining and reject email sent this way.

Nolisting – The email servers for any given domain are specified in a prioritized list, via the MX records. The nolisting technique is simply the adding of an MX record pointing to a non-existent server as the "primary" (i.e. that with the lowest preference value) – which means that an initial mail contact will always fail. Many spam sources do not retry on failure, so the spammer will move on to the next victim; legitimate email servers should retry the next higher numbered MX, and normal email will be delivered with only a brief delay.

Quit detection – An SMTP connection should always be closed with a QUIT command. Many spammers skip this step because their spam has already been sent and taking the time to properly close the connection takes time and bandwidth. Some MTAs are capable of detecting whether or not the connection is closed correctly and use this as a measure of how trustworthy the other system is.


Main article: Honeypot (computing)

Another approach is simply an imitation MTA which gives the appearance of being an open mail relay, or an imitation TCP/IP proxy server which gives the appearance of being an open proxy. Spammers who probe systems for open relays/proxies will find such a host and attempt to send mail through it, wasting their time and resources and potentially revealing information about themselves and the origin of the spam they are sending to the entity that operates the honeypot. Such a system may simply discard the spam attempts, submit them to DNSBLs, or store them for analysis.

Hybrid filteringEdit

Hybrid filtering, such as is implemented in the open source programs SpamAssassin and Policyd-weight uses some or all of the various tests for spam, and assigns a numerical score to each test. Each message is scanned for these patterns, and the applicable scores tallied up. If the total is above a fixed value, the message is rejected or flagged as spam. By ensuring that no single spam test by itself can flag a message as spam, the false positive rate can be greatly reduced.

Several appliances such as the Barracuda Networks Spam firewall, and services like Postini and Cudamail employ spam scoring and bayesian filtering to arrive at thresholds which determine filtering action. An example of defaults might be:

3 – Tag the email (add a "tagged" or "suspected spam" type of string to the email subject line to assist end users in checking their inbox).

4.5 – Quarantine the email (hold it, and email the end user to let them know that it quite possibly is spam and as a result they must log in and see it). Typically this type of action is taken due to more "spammy" features in the email such as hyperlinks, more image content than text, or certain words.

6 – Block the email (do not allow it through). Typically this action is taken due to presence in the email of words like viagra, or links to malware sites, or to urls that are known to be used by spammers, or to have been blacklisted by a variety of online blacklist services like Barracuda Central or SpamHaus.

Outbound spam protectionEdit

Outbound spam protection involves scanning email traffic as it exits a network, identifying spam messages and then taking an action such as blocking the message or shutting off the source of the traffic. Outbound spam protection can be implemented on a network-wide level (using policy-based routing or similar techniques to route SMTP messages to a filtering service). Or, it can be implemented within a standard SMTP gateway. While the primary economic impact of spam is on spam recipients, sending networks also experience financial costs, such as wasted bandwidth, and the risk of having IP addresses blocked by receiving networks.

The advantage of outbound spam protection is that it stops spam before it leaves the sending network, protecting receiving networks globally from the damage and costs that would otherwise be caused by the spam. Further it lets system administrators track down spam sources on the network and remediate them – for example, providing free anti-virus tools to customers whose machines have become infected with a virus or are participating in a botnet. Given an appropriately designed spam filtering algorithm, outbound spam filtering can be implemented with a near zero false positive rate, which keeps customer related issues with blocked legitimate email down to a minimum.

When dealing with outbound spam, it's important to not only analyze the content of individual messages, but also to keep track of the behaviour of email senders over time. Senders exhibiting suspicious behaviour should be rate limited to reduce the likelihood that they will send spam, which may get past even a good filter.

There are several commercial software vendors who offer specialized outbound spam protection products, including MailChannels and CYREN. Open source options such as SpamAssassin may also be effective.

PTR/reverse DNS checksEdit

The PTR DNS records in the reverse DNS can be used for a number of things, including:

  • Most email mail transfer agents (mail servers) use a forward-confirmed reverse DNS (FCrDNS) verification and if there is a valid domain name, put it into the "Received:" trace header field.
  • Some email mail transfer agents will perform FCrDNS verification on the domain name given in the SMTP HELO and EHLO commands. See #HELO/EHLO checking.
  • To check the domain names in the rDNS to see if they are likely from dial-up users, dynamically assigned addresses, or home-based broadband customers. Since the vast majority, but by no means all, of email that originates from these computers is spam, many mail servers also refuse email with missing or "generic" rDNS names.[11]
  • A Forward Confirmed reverse DNS verification can create a form of authentication that there is a valid relationship between the owner of a domain name and the owner of the network that has been given an IP address. While reliant on the DNS infrastructure, which has known vulnerabilities, this authentication is strong enough that it can be used for whitelisting purposes because spammers and phishers cannot usually bypass this verification when they use zombie computers to forge the domains.

Rule-based filteringEdit

Further information: Email filtering

Content filtering techniques rely on the specification of lists of words or regular expressions disallowed in mail messages. Thus, if a site receives spam advertising "herbal Viagra", the administrator might place this phrase in the filter configuration. The mail server would then reject any message containing the phrase.

Header filtering looks at the header of the email which contains information about the origin, destination and content of the message. Although spammers will often spoof fields in the header in order to hide their identity, or to try to make the email look more legitimate than it is many of these spoofing methods can be detected, and any violation of the RFC 5322 standard on how the header is to be formed can also serve as a basis for rejecting the message.

SMTP callback verificationEdit

Main article: callback verification

Since a large percentage of spam has forged and invalid sender ("from") addresses, some spam can be detected by checking that this "from" address is valid. A mail server can try to verify the sender address by making an SMTP connection back to the mail exchanger for the address, as if it was creating a bounce, but stopping just before any email is sent.

Callback verification can be compliant with SMTP RFCs, but it has various drawbacks. Since nearly all spam has forged return addresses, nearly all callbacks are to innocent third party mail servers that are unrelated to the spam. At the same time, there will be numerous false negatives due to spammers abusing real addresses and some false positives. One of the ways of reducing the load on innocent servers is to use other spam detection methods first and save callback verification for last.

Another drawback of using callbacks occurs when the spammer uses a trap address as his sender's address. If the receiving MTA tries to make the callback using the trap address in a MAIL FROM command, the receiving MTA's IP address will be blacklisted. The VRFY and EXPN commands have been so exploited by spammers, that few SMTP Admins enable them, and the existence of DNSBLs and the lack of VRFY or EXPN leave the receiving SMTP server no effective way to validate the sender's email address.[12]

SMTP proxyEdit

Main article: SMTP proxy

SMTP proxies allow combating spam in real time, combining sender's behavior controls, providing legitimate users immediate feedback, eliminating a need for quarantine.


Main article: Spamtrap

Spamtrapping is the seeding of an email address so that spammers can find it, but normal users can not. If the email address is used then the sender must be a spammer and they are black listed.

As an example, consider the email address "". If this email address were placed in the source HTML of our web site in a way that it isn't displayed on the web page, normal humans would not see it. Spammers, on the other hand, use web page scrapers and bots to harvest email addresses from HTML source code so they would find this address.

When the spammer sends mail with the destination address of "" the SpamTrap knows this is highly likely to be a spammer and can take appropriate action.

Statistical content filteringEdit

Statistical (or Bayesian) filtering once set up, requires no administrative maintenance per se: instead, users mark messages as spam or nonspam and the filtering software learns from these judgements. Thus, a statistical filter does not reflect the software author's or administrator's biases as to content, but rather the user's biases. For example, a biochemist who is researching Viagra won't have messages containing the word "Viagra" automatically flagged as spam, because "Viagra" will show up often in his or her legitimate messages. Still, spam emails containing the word "Viagra" do get filtered because the content of the rest of the spam messages differs significantly from the content of legitimate messages. A statistical filter can also respond quickly to changes in spam content, without administrative intervention, as long as users consistently designate false negative messages as spam when received in their email. Statistical filters can also look at message headers, thereby considering not just the content but also peculiarities of the transport mechanism of the email.

Typical statistical filtering uses single words in the calculations to decide if a message should be classified as spam or not. A more powerful calculation can be made using groups of two or more words taken together. Then random "noise" words can not be used as successfully to fool the filter.

Software programs that implement statistical filtering include Bogofilter, DSPAM, SpamBayes, ASSP, the email programs Mozilla and Mozilla Thunderbird, Mailwasher, and later revisions of SpamAssassin. Another interesting project is CRM114 which hashes phrases and does bayesian classification on the phrases.

There is also the free mail filter POPFile, which sorts mail in as many categories as the user wants (family, friends, co-worker, spam, whatever) with Bayesian filtering.


Main article: Tarpit (networking)

A tarpit is any server software which intentionally responds extremely slowly to client commands. By running a tarpit which treats acceptable mail normally and known spam slowly or which appears to be an open mail relay, a site can slow down the rate at which spammers can inject messages into the mail facility. Many systems will simply disconnect if the server doesn't respond quickly, which will eliminate the spam. However, a few legitimate email systems will also not deal correctly with these delays.

Automated techniques for email sendersEdit

There are a variety of techniques that email senders use to try to make sure that they do not send spam. Failure to control the amount of spam sent, as judged by email receivers, can often cause even legitimate email to be blocked and for the sender to be put on DNSBLs.

Background checks on new users and customersEdit

Since spammer's accounts are frequently disabled due to violations of abuse policies, they are constantly trying to create new accounts. Due to the damage done to an ISP's reputation when it is the source of spam, many ISPs and web email providers use CAPTCHAs on new accounts to verify that it is a real human registering the account, and not an automated spamming system. They can also verify that credit cards are not stolen before accepting new customers, check the Spamhaus Project ROKSO list, and do other background checks.

Confirmed opt-in for mailing listsEdit

Main article: Opt-in email

A malicious person can easily attempt to subscribe another user to a mailing list — to harass them, or to make the company or organisation appear to be spamming. To prevent this, all modern mailing list management programs (such as GNU Mailman, LISTSERV, Majordomo, and qmail's ezmlm) support "confirmed opt-in" by default. Whenever an email address is presented for subscription to the list, the software will send a confirmation message to that address. The confirmation message contains no advertising content, so it is not construed to be spam itself, and the address is not added to the live mail list unless the recipient responds to the confirmation message.

Egress spam filteringEdit

Main article: Egress filtering

Email senders typically now do the same type of anti-spam checks on email coming from their users and customers as for inward email coming from the rest of the Internet. This protects their reputation, which could otherwise be harmed in the case of infection by spam-sending malware.

Limit email backscatterEdit

Main article: Backscatter (email)

If a receiving server initially fully accepts an email, and only later determines that the message is spam or to a non-existent recipient, it will generate a bounce message back to the supposed sender. However, if (as is often the case with spam), the sender information on the incoming email was forged to be that of an unrelated third party then this bounce message is backscatter spam. For this reason it is generally preferable for most rejection of incoming email to happen during the SMTP connection stage, with a 5xx error code, while the sending server is still connected. In this case then the sending server will report the problem to the real sender cleanly.

Port 25 blockingEdit

Firewalls and routers can be programmed to not allow SMTP traffic (TCP port 25) from machines on the network that are not supposed to run Mail Transfer Agents or send email.[13] This practice is somewhat controversial when ISPs block home users, especially if the ISPs do not allow the blocking to be turned off upon request. Email can still be sent from these computers to designated smart hosts via port 25 and to other smart hosts via the email submission port 587.

Port 25 interceptionEdit

Network address translation can be used to intercept all port 25 (SMTP) traffic and direct it to a mail server that enforces rate limiting and egress spam filtering. This is commonly done in hotels,[14] but it can cause email privacy problems, as well making it impossible to use STARTTLS and SMTP-AUTH if the port 587 submission port isn't used.

Rate limitingEdit

Machines that suddenly start sending lots of email may well have become zombie computers. By limiting the rate that email can be sent around what is typical for the computer in question, legitimate email can still be sent, but large spam runs can be slowed down until manual investigation can be done.[15]

Spam report feedback loopsEdit

Main article: Feedback Loop (email)

By monitoring spam reports from places such as spamcop, AOL's feedback loop, and Network Abuse Clearinghouse, the domain's abuse@ mailbox, etc., ISPs can often learn of problems before they seriously damage the ISP's reputation and have their mail servers blacklisted.

FROM field controlEdit

Both malicious software and human spam senders often use forged FROM addresses when sending spam messages. Control may be enforced on SMTP servers to ensure senders can only use their correct email address in the FROM field of outgoing messages. In an email users database each user has a record with an email address. The SMTP server must check if the email address in the FROM field of an outgoing message is the same address that belongs to the user's credentials, supplied for SMTP authentication. If the FROM field is forged, an SMTP error will be returned to the email client (e.g. "You do not own the email address you are trying to send from").

Strong AUP and TOS agreementsEdit

Most ISPs and webmail providers have either an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) or a Terms of Service (TOS) agreement that discourages spammers from using their system and allows the spammer to be terminated quickly for violations.

Legal measuresEdit

From 2000 onwards, many countries enacted specific legislation to criminalize spamming, and appropriate legislation and enforcement can have a significant impact on spamming activity.[16] Where legislation provides specific text that bulk emailers must include, this also makes "legitimate" bulk email easier to identify.

Increasingly, anti-spam efforts have led to co-ordination between law enforcement, researchers, major consumer financial service companies and Internet service providers in monitoring and tracking email spam, identity theft and phishing activities and gathering evidence for criminal cases.[17]

Analysis of the sites being spamvertised by a given piece of spam can often be followed up with domain registrars with good results.[18]

New solutions and ongoing researchEdit

Several approaches have been proposed to improve the email system.

Cost-based systemsEdit

Since spamming is facilitated by the fact that large volumes of email are very inexpensive to send, one proposed set of solutions would require that senders pay some cost in order to send email, making it prohibitively expensive for spammers. Anti-spam activist Daniel Balsam attempts to make spamming less profitable by bringing lawsuits against spammers.[19]

Other techniquesEdit

There are a number of proposals for sideband protocols that will assist SMTP operation. The Anti-Spam Research Group (ASRG) of the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) is working on a number of email authentication and other proposals for providing simple source authentication that is flexible, lightweight, and scalable. Recent Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) activities include MARID (2004) leading to two approved IETF experiments in 2005, and DomainKeys Identified Mail in 2006.

DMARC, which stands for "Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance" standardizes how email receivers perform email authentication using the well-known Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DKIM mechanisms.[20]

Channel email is a new proposal for sending email that attempts to distribute anti-spam activities by forcing verification (probably using bounce messages so back-scatter doesn't occur) when the first email is sent for new contacts.

Research conferencesEdit

Spam is the subject of several research conferences, including:


  1. ^ Email Address Harvesting: How Spammers Reap What You Sow Archived April 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., Federal Trade Commission. URL accessed on 24 April 2006.
  2. ^ "Information Technology: Threats",
  3. ^ Customers: TD Ameritrade failed to warn of breach
  4. ^ David A. Wheeler, (May 11, 2011) Countering Spam by Using Ham Passwords (Email Passwords)
  5. ^ This depends on provider's policy; for example: Go Daddy Legal Department. "Universal Terms of Service Agreement". Retrieved 5 September 2014. We do not tolerate the transmission of spam. We monitor all traffic to and from our web servers for indications of spamming and maintain a spam abuse complaint center to register allegations of spam abuse. Customers suspected to be using our products and services for the purpose of sending spam are fully investigated. If we determine there is a problem with spam, we will take the appropriate action to resolve the situation. 
  6. ^ The latter depends on local law; for example: "Canada's Law on Spam and Other Electronic Threats". Retrieved 5 September 2014. Canada's anti-spam legislation (CASL) is in place to protect Canadians 
  7. ^ "Spam",
  8. ^ "Anti-spam", NZ Department of Internal Affairs
  9. ^ Jose Marcio Martins Da Cruz; John Levine (May 2009). "URL filtering". Anti-Spam Research Group wiki. Retrieved 2 December 2015. 
  10. ^ "4.XXX.XXX Persistent Transient Failure",
  11. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". The Spamhaus Project. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Shutting Down the Highway to Internet Hell". eWeek. 2005-04-08. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  14. ^ Why can't I send mail from my hotel room? AskLeo!, December 2005
  15. ^ Rate Limiting as an Anti-Spam Tool eWeek, June 2004
  16. ^ "Two companies fined for breaching the Spam Act". ComputerWorld. June 22, 2007. 
  17. ^ Alleged Spam King Soloway Arrested Archived March 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. May 31, 2007
  18. ^ "Results: 54,357 site shutdowns (67,095 pending)". KnujOn. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  19. ^ Paul Elias, (December 26, 2010). Man quits job, makes living suing e-mail spammers, archived from the original on December 27, 2010. Associated Press
  20. ^ Butcher, Mike. DMARC Promises A World Of Less Phishing. Tech Crunch. Jan 30, 2012

External linksEdit