Spam is getting so bad nowadays that it’s almost to the
point where e-mail is practically useless. If your organization has its
own e-mail server, a spam filter is almost as important as a virus scanner.
Even if you use an ISP-based Web mail system such as Hotmail or Yahoo Mail, you
may think you’re safe, since so many ISPs now have their own spam blockers. The
problem with both of these strategies is that spam can often get past these
filters. You need another layer of defense. That’s where a desktop spam blocker
such as MailWasher can come in handy.

What’s MailWasher?

MailWasher is an e-mail checker with spam elimination. It connects
directly to your e-mail server in the same manner that your e-mail program does.
MailWasher allows you to delete e-mails directly from the server without ever
downloading them into your inbox. You can also bounce e-mails back to the
source, making it appear as though your e-mail address was invalid. You can configure
blacklists to block unwanted e-mail from non-spammers, or create whitelists
that allow e-mail only from specified e-mail addresses. After you’ve washed
your mail, you can download only the messages you choose.

At first glance, deleting an e-mail before downloading it to
your e-mail program may sound silly. You can just delete it after it gets
downloaded, right? Doing so in advance, however, allows you to get rid of e-mails
with Web bugs that can phone home to a spammer. If you open such e-mails inside
of your e-mail reader, the bug will send information to a spammer even if you
delete the e-mail. It does so by loading a small graphic from a Web site. The
spammer records information from the calls and proceeds to send more e-mail to
the requesting address.

MailWasher runs on Windows 9x, NT, 2000, and XP. It can
connect to any POP mail server and some Web mail servers.

Obtaining and installing MailWasher

MailWasher is available directly from the MailWasher Web site. You can download the
free version or pay for the full version. The full version costs $37 but
includes the following features not found in the free version:

  • Support for IMAP servers
  • Support for Hotmail, MSN, and AOL mail
  • Intelligent filters
  • Technical support

Even if you only choose to use the free version, you can still
try the full features for 30 days.

The file you’ll download, MailWasherFree.exe, is only 1.4 MB,
so it should download quickly. Save the file to a temporary location on your
workstation and run it to start the Setup program. MailWasher installs using a
traditional Windows Setup Wizard. There’s nothing that will catch you by

Running MailWasher

You can start MailWasher by clicking Start | Programs |
MailWasher | MailWasher. The first thing you’ll see is the Accounts window.
Here, you’ll click Add to add your e-mail account to MailWasher’s laundry list.

MailWasher will first ask what kind of account you want to
add. Select the server type from the list and click OK. The Account Details
screen will then appear. Enter a name for the account in the Type The Name
field. Next, click the Incoming Mail tab. You’ll then see the screen shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Enter connection information for your e-mail server.

Enter the information required to connect to your server. If
you need to change the POP TCP/IP port number, you can do so by clicking
Advance POP3 Configuration and making the necessary changes.

Next, click the Bouncing & Outgoing Mail tab. If you
want messages to bounce, click the Enable Bouncing check box. You’ll also have
to enter the address you want to bounce e-mail from and the SMTP information
for your e-mail server.

When you’re finished, click OK to save all of the
information, and click Close to close the Accounts window. When MailWasher checks
the e-mail on your server, you’ll see the screen shown in Figure B. E-mail will load individually from your e-mail server,
populating this screen.

Figure B

MailWasher loads the e-mail from your e-mail server.

You can preview a message before starting your e-mail client
by double-clicking the message. This will allow you to check the e-mail for
content and verify the originator before sending it to your regular e-mail
client. If you select Display Full Header And Message Source, you’ll get all of the information
about the message, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

You can preview messages in MailWasher before sending them to your e-mail

You can do one of four things with a message: You can click
Delete, Bounce, and/or Blacklist by selecting the appropriate check boxes; you
can also allow an e-mail to go forward by not checking any of the boxes.

When you’ve finished checking all of the e-mail, click
Process Mail. That will forward undeleted mail to your e-mail client and get
rid of the messages you don’t want. Then you can click Mail Program to launch
your e-mail client to respond to the e-mail you want to answer.

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