Webmail Spam Management

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How to manage Spam settings in Webmail

1 Introduction

Your email service has spam filtering which allows you to control many aspects of what’s marked as spam (and moved to your spam folder) and what’s delivered to your inbox.

First, some definitions; we all know what spam is, but there is another word you need to know. That word is ‘ham.’ Ham is email that you WANT to receive, as opposed to spam which is email you don’t want to receive.

When email is sent to you, it is processed by the server and each message is given a ‘score.’ The higher the number of this score, the more likely that message is spam. Messages which score over a pre-determined number (aka, the threshold) will be placed into your personal spam folder. If you have already defined the sender’s email address in your personal Allowed Addresses list then the message will NOT be placed in the spam folder, it will be delivered directly to your inbox.

2 The Four Magic Buttons

Most of your email will be correctly identified as spam or ham but when there is a problem with message classification, you can fix it and you can help the system better know how to handle similar messages in the future.

When you log into webmail, there are 4 buttons which help you control messages after they are either incorrectly identified as spam or if spam gets into your inbox. Those buttons are:

  • Deny Sender – this will place the sender’s email address on your Denied Addresses list.
  • Report Spam – this will tell the spam filter that the message really is spam. You would use this for spam that is delivered to your Inbox.
  • Allow Sender – this will place the sender’s email address on your Allowed Addresses list.
  • Report Ham – this will tell the spam filter that the message is NOT spam. You would use this for good email which is delivered to your spam folder.

The more often you use the Report Spam and Report Ham button, the better the spam filter will be able to determine what’s spam and what’s not spam.

These buttons will show at the top and bottom of your message lists or at the bottom of a message you have opened to read in webmail. To use these tools from the message list, select the ‘checkbox’ to the left of the message in the list then click the appropriate button.

3 Managing False Positives

The BEST way to add a sender’s email address to your Allowed Address list and to tell the spam filter that similar messages are not spam is to follow this procedure:

While viewing your spam folder in webmail, you find a message in the message list which appears to NOT be spam. Click on that message in order to view it. At the bottom of the message you will find the Allow Sender and Report Ham button. First, click on the Allow Sender button. This will add the sender’s email address to your personal Allowed Addresses list. This will show you a confirmation page. On that page, click on the “Return to original email” link. You can then scroll down the message and click the Report Ham button at the bottom. This will report the message as ham (a good email message) and then reload the message. At this point, if you want, you can move this message to your Inbox or any other mailbox by scrolling to the bottom of the message and clicking the Move To button. Be sure to select the folder where you’d like to move the message if it’s something other than Inbox. Note that you can setup webmail to automatically move your message to the Inbox after clicking the Allowed Sender or Report Ham buttons – see the section ADDITONAL MANGEMENT OPTIONS for more information.

Alternatively, you can also do this from the message list of the spam folder but there could be a few more clicks involved. If you are viewing your spam folder in webmail and you find a message that is NOT spam, you would want to select the checkbox to the left of that message then click the Allow Sender button to add that sender’s email address to your Allowed Addresses list and any future message from that sender’s email address will be placed in your Inbox. Doing this will cause the page to re-load showing the most recent messages (if you sort your email using another method, then the beginning of that sort method will determine which messages show on the first page). You can then find the message again and check the box to the left of the message and click the Report Ham button as the next step. This will again reload the message list from the beginning. If the message you are working on isn’t on the first page, this will require you to move through the message list pages again to find the message a third time to then click the checkbox and click the Move To button to move the message to the Inbox (or whatever folder you select). As you can see, it’s easier to open the message first and select the buttons from the message itself instead of the message list.

4 Reporting Spam

If a message that is spam is delivered to your Inbox, you can follow the above precedure from the Inbox (or other folders),using the Deny Sender and Report Spam buttons, to report the message to the spam filter so that future similar messages can be more accurately classified. Although it is possible, you normally do NOT want to add a spam sender’s email address to the Denied Addresses list because spammers usually don’t use the same email address twice. They often use your own email address as the FROM address in an email so you could possibly block your own email address! There are some messages that you might want to block from some commercial email senders or people you just don’t want to hear from so there times you might want to use this feature. Be very mindful of the email address you are adding to the Denied Addresses list.

5 Additional Management Options

There are additional options such as automatically moving ham (good email) to the inbox when you add it to the Allowed Addresses list (also referred to as whitelisting) or if you mark it as ham. You can find these options in webmail (be sure Mail is selected in the uppermost left corner of the window) by selecting Mail Preferences in the left navigation menu then selecting the Configuration Category: Spam Options in the main area. Be sure to click Save after making changes.

You may also manually add and remove email addresses to the Allowed and Denied lists from webmail. To do this, log into webmail and select Usermin at the far upper-left corner of the window. The Usermin page will load. Click on the Mail link in the left navigation menu. This will drop down a submenu. Select SpamAssassin Mail Filter. When the page loads, select Allowed And Denied Addresses. There are 4 tabs for settings, all are self explanatory. Be sure to click Save when you’ve made your changes. To return to your mail menu, click the Mail link at the far upper-left corner of the window.

6 Automatic Spam Deletion

Spam will remain in your spam folder for 7 days before it is automatically deleted. The spam is automatically deleted to prevent your mailbox from filling to its limit which would prevent new email from being delivered.

7 Disabling Spam Filtering

If you do not want spam filtering, it can be turned off for individual email addresses by setting that address' Spam Score Threshold to 500 or for all email addresses by requesting spam filtering be disabled. The person in your organization who’s responsible for the hosting service can make the request to Customer Support to disable spam filtering for the entire domain.

8 Spam Score Threshold

It’s possible to change an individual user’s Spam Score Threshold. An email message with a score lower than the threshold number is classified as ham and delivered to the Inbox, a score higher that this threshold number will be classified as spam and delivered to your spam folder. To change this, log into webmail and select Usermin at the far upper-left corner of the window. The Usermin page will load. Click on the Mail link in the left navigation menu (this is under your name and email address, not above it). This will drop down a submenu. Select SpamAssassin Mail Filter.

There are many options here. It’s best not to change any unless you are experience with email hosting and understand the options (or at least how to change them back if there are problems).

To change the spam classification threshold, click the Spam Classification icon. When the page loads, find the option ‘Hits above which a message is considered spam’ and select the radio button on the right and enter a number. You can see the default number to the left of where you just clicked so if you want the spam filter to be more permissive, increase this number. Generally you will want to increase this number only 1 or 2 digits at a time however you can always change it later. Be sure to click Save at the bottom of the screen when you’ve made a change. To return to your mail menu, click the Mail link at the far upper-left corner of the window.

9 Notes on Use

You may notice that you can create filters for email messages. It would appear that you could manage a whitelist or allowed senders list with the filters option however filters are intended to process messages after they are checked for spam content. Because of this, even if you create a filter that says to place email from a specific sender in your Inbox, if the spam filter defines that messages as spam, the message will be placed in the spam folder because spam checks happen before any filters you would create are applied.

10 Blacklists

Rotating Blacklists (also called RBLs) are also used to prevent spam. RBLs are lists of IP addresses which are currently sending spam messages. If a message is blocked by an RBL, it is blocked before it’s checked for spam content. All ISPs use RBLs because they are extremely effective, the most effective method of stopping spam from being delivered to users.

If a messages is blocked because it comes from an IP address on an RBL, it will NOT show up in your spam folder but a rejection message will be issued to the sending server. It’s very rare for good email to be blocked by an RBL but sometimes it does happen because spammers can hijack legitimate email servers and send spam from the same place that good email comes from. 95% of all email is blocked by RBLs. RBLs are used to reduce load on your server which increases your server’s performance.