Component of the
Home Computer Security Baseline
I HATE SPAM!
Will a spam filter really help? Usually, but typically they take a bit of understanding on your part. Most spam filters are not exactly fire and forget.
You have to know where suspect email is stored, in case a good email was sent there by mistake. To help avoid that, you need to know how to "whitelist" an email address or domain that you want to make sure doesn't get tagged as spam.
It also helps if you can "train" your filter by designating email as spam that it missed the first time around.
Do I need a spam filter?
Well, that depends. If you have a brand new email address and follow rules of proper home computer user behavior, then maybe not very. Just yet, anyway.
Spam can destroy your computer!
Spam email can be very dangerous. Some of the worst viruses, keyloggers, etc. come through illegitimate emails. The key is never to open them in the first place. This includes auto preview!
Why? Simple. Some emails, primarily HTML email (ie, pretty ones), contain a 1 dot graphic that you can't see, or other code that will phone home to a server or in some other way actually launch program code to install dangerous software on your computer. Opening the email, even with auto preview options in Outlook, will trigger that code.
The results of this can be disasterous!
The good news is, most internet security software packages include at least a remedial version of a spam filter or antispam software. Maybe it's not the best, but being part of suite will likely mean it's affordable and will play well with the other components. That may NOT be the case if you opt for a separate spam blocker solution.
Anti Spam Software
I personally have a network, so my spam problem is solved at the server level - Microsoft Exchange server properly configured and GFI MailEssentials.
But for individual computers, the spam filter in Trend Micro Internet Security or ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite should help quite a bit. I do NOT use the Junk Email filtering of Outlook.
No anti spam software will be perfect, and you will have to be on the lookout for "false positives" - good email that got tagged as spam. Just don't go previewing the spam! When in doubt, leave it out!
Here is where "whitelisting" comes in. Any decent spam filter should give you the ability to whitelist, or, mark as valid, email from people you know. Great filters will whitelist everyone that you email to; that way you are assured the response won't get filtered out.
"What about phishing?"Since most phishing threats come via email, protection from this threat is usually provided by the antispam software. And for those unfamiliar with the term, phishing is the attempt to "fish" for people willing to be conned or "lured" (another fishing term, sort of) into divulging personal financial information via a fake, look alike website emulating eBay or Citibank or whoever. Read Wikipedia's definition here.
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