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.
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 surprise.
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.
|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.
|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.
|You can preview messages in MailWasher before sending them to your e-mail client.|
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.