Personal Antispam X3
Spam is the scourge of the Internet – indeed, for Mac users it presents an even bigger problem than viruses. At the moment, conservative estimates are that around 60 per cent of email is spam. Nobody likes it, but it takes a lot to stop it. Intego has pitched in with a tool to keep spam at bay.
Spam filters can be tricky to set up, so it’s good to see that PA X3 has a straightforward software assistant to help configure it. Once installed, you could safely ignore the software and let it get on with things – it would do a fair job. But to get the best from it, you should teach it what you like and don’t like.
What you consider to be spam may differ from how others see it. For instance I get some mail from PR companies that are difficult for even me to figure out if they’re spam or press releases; getting a spam filter to decide is close to impossible. Some people that get any promotional email, from Apple or any other company, consider that spam. So, the filter needs some help. There are five ways that AS X3 tries to spot spam, and each is customizable.
The first and cleverest method is Lexical. It analyzes the content of incoming mail, and counts how often each word appears. When you tell the application that an email is spam, the words in it are given a ‘bad’ score. Words found in non-spam are give a ‘good’ score. When it gets an email that mentions cheap cigarettes, it will look those words up. Cheap may appear in more good emails than bad – but cigarettes may appear in more bad emails than good.
Depending on the scores of all the words in the email, AS X3 will judge whether it’s spam or not by totalling up the good and bad scores. It isn’t foolproof, but it gets better the more information you give it by selecting spam.
The next method is less complex: a blacklist. You can blacklist email from certain domains or addresses. Unless you check the tick box, the blacklist isn’t added to automatically. If you do chose that option, any mail identified as spam will be blocked from future incoming mail.
Equally important is the white list: the list of trusted domains and email addresses. It can allow all senders that appear in Address Book, but it’s worth adding a few domains manually. Apple is a good one to include, and your work domains, in my case anything with macworld.co.uk, macworld.com or idg.com. Your trusted email addresses and domains will be different.
There’s also a URL filter that looks for spoof URLs in the body of emails. These are used when spammers show one Web address, but hide the real destination. AS X3 finds these emails and reroutes them to a spam folder.
Finally, AS X3 looks for suspect attachments, such as .pif and .scr files. These are usually PC virus files that won’t do you any harm, but are simply annoying. Routing these into your spam folder will save you the trouble.
No spam filter is 100 per cent accurate, but the more you use it the better it becomes. Intego’s solution is easy to use, and does all the complicated stuff without much input from you. I still use a set of rules in Apple mail to filter out some email, and my ISP uses a spam filter too – so AS X3 is the icing on the cake.