Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Spam filtering piggyback ride

I am an avid user of gmail - google's email service. However, I have no intention of giving up my personal domain name, or changing my personal email address from that domain. However, my personal email account is inundated with spam - hundreds of letters a day. I accept the fact as stoically as I can. Afterall, I have had the domain for many years, and that just seems to be the price to pay for it.

Of course, I am not completely defenseless. I employ, courtesy of my hosting provider, spamassassin, set to a level that seems to leave all of my real email in my inbox. In the last 3 days spamassassin has put 2500 messages into the junk folder. It also let about 750 through, of which about a 100 were legitimate emails. Raising the spamassassin level seems to put too many of those 100 into the junk folder, from which they have little chance of emerging. I know I could do a better job setting up whitelists, and blacklists, and filters, but given the technology today's spammers employ it seems like a waste of time. Some friends have been using software similar to Outlook Spam Filter, but I do not use Outlook. So I suffered, until I began using Gmail service.

Forwarding emails from my real email to Gmail subjected the ones that already passed the spamassassin filters to Gmail spam filters. The double-distillation works quite well, and I receive hardly and spam in my Inbox on Gmail. However, I still get the extra 250 emails a day on my "main" Inbox at my domain. Until now.

One of the new features on Gmail is a prosaic feature called email forwarding:
  • Automatic forwarding to another email account
    We're testing a new feature that lets you forward new incoming messages to any email account you want. It's free during the test and you can set it up in seconds. Even set up filters to forward only some of your messages. It's your mail. Get it the way you want it. Learn more

Aha. A double spam filter reverse proxy! [ed - talk about technical jargon] At the moment, I do the following:

  • receive mail coming to my real email address and run it through spamassassin filters
  • forward all non-junk mail coming through the filters to my real email address ( onto my email address
  • At the same time archive all of that mail for future reference, since I do not know how I will be able to retrieve email from gmail in the future, were I no longer using it.
  • use gmail filtering to farther reduce spam reaching my sensitive eyes to only 4-10 messages a day. Very manageable.

With support of forwarding from gmail to other accounts I can now add to the process as follows:
  • forward all mail from gmail back to my personal domain
  • filter and store that email on my personal domain practically spam free

Alas. A long post just for the explanation of how I arrived to appreciate the last two bullet points. At least no trees died for this.

ps. This post took 6 hours of interrupted writing. Perhaps in the morning it will prove to be as disjointed and incoherent as I am afraid it is.


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