Anti-Spam Practices



Why do we allow spam in email at Webster?

While we make every effort to quarantine messages containing harmful viruses, it is not a trivial undertaking to block other kinds of unwanted e-mail while at the same time allowing legitimate messages to flow freely. Filtering out spam based on the sender's address or message content will always be imperfect, because e-mail addresses are ever-changing, and the possible combinations and spellings of objectionable words are nearly infinite. This makes it nearly impossible to reliably identify and block unwanted content.

If you consider that legitimate e-mail might also contain words that some users find objectionable, the potential for discarding valid email is very high indeed.

Attempting to preemptively filter out unwanted content is particularly unsuited to a University setting, where we must be careful not to infringe upon legitimate academic endeavors. Exercising prior restraint over any form of communication puts freedom of academic discourse at risk.

What does Webster do about spam?

Rather than preemptively deleting spam, we add a "spam score" to every message that attempts to quantify the probability that the message is junk mail. You can see an email's spam score by viewing the Internet headers in your email client. This method allows you to choose the level of control that is exercised over the content of your e-mail, rather than forcing everyone to conform to an institutional standard that would likely be too strict for some and too lenient for others.

By creating a filter in your e-mail program, you can automatically move messages based on content, spam score, and other attributes to a specific folder, or to your trash folder. You can also choose to move all messages from senders who aren't in your address book to a particular folder for review; this can work well if you keep your address book up to date. If you have any questions about how to set up email filters, contact the IT Service Desk.

What can I do to protect myself from spam?

  • Never use your primary email address on public web sites or online stores. Use an alternate email account, which you can create for free at yahoo.com or gmail.com.
  • DO NOT reply to an unsolicited email, follow the "opt-out" instructions, or click on links that appear in unsolicited messages. All these are methods that spammers use to collect your address and send you more spam.
  • Close the preview pane in your e-mail program, and do not click on attachments received in unsolicited messages. This prevents objectionable content from being automatically displayed on your screen, and also protects you from viruses and scripts that can be activated by the preview. The IT Service Desk can give you information on how to close the preview pane in your particular e-mail program.
  • Never pass on email that asks you to send it to everyone you know.
  • Always use at least default security on your browser (to eliminate email capture when you are surfing).
  • Always review a web site's privacy policy before doing business online. If their policy is to share your address with other businesses, you can usually request that your address not be shared.
  • Do not support spam by buying something via unsolicited e-mail advertising, even if the product is something you want. Go to a reputable Internet or retail vendor.
  • Use email filters to delete the message before it is ever viewed.
  • Contact Internet directories such as Switchboard and AnyWho, and ask them to remove your name, email address, and personal information from their databases.