Monday, June 8, 2009

Are the Spammers Running Out of Steam?

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001

Vol. 9, #74 - Jun 9, 2009 - Issue #382

 Are the Spammers Running Out of Steam?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Are the Spammers Running Out of Steam?
    • Follow-up: Going Green
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Russia may file charges against Microsoft for retiring Windows XP
    • New phone runs XP
    • Google's netbook operating system: Windows Killer?
    • What's cooking at Microsoft?
    • Google/Bing comparison tool
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to migrate your XP files and settings to Windows 7
  5. XP Security News
    • This month's Patch Tuesday to be a heavy one
  6. XP Question Corner
    • Installing XP on a Mac
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Network adapter locks up after failed logon attempt
    • Your XP computer doesn't show up in the Network Map on a Vista computer
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Keypad: Stores And Automatically Fills Passwords, Usernames, Credit Card Info And Much More.

Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product. Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:

 Editor's Corner

Are the Spammers Running Out of Steam?

It's been a while since I've written about the spam problem. That's probably because for the last year or so, for me, it hasn't really been a problem. Oh, I still get a handful of unwanted messages in my Inbox each day, but only a few compared to the dozens or hundreds of legit e-mail messages. Have the spammers given up - or at least slowed down - or have I just finally hit upon the Perfect Storm of anti-spam technologies to keep them away from my eyes? I decided to find out.

We use a combination of several different "spam whackers." There is a network-based program that filters what comes in to Exchange for the whole network. Those filters prevent messages they identify as spam from ever making it to our individual computers. Looking at the report for a typical day last week, there were almost 250,000 messages blocked by those server-side filters. Yep - a quarter of a million unwanted messages came into our small network in one day. I guess that answers the question about whether the spammers are giving up.

However, that's actually significantly fewer spam messages than we were getting, on average, a year ago. Then the day's total tended to be between 300,000 and 500,000. So apparently there actually has been some reduction in overall spam activity, at least on our network. Still, the number of good messages (400) is tiny in comparison to the spam. And according to most statistics, our small business is by no means unique in the amount of spam it gets. In fact, on most corporate networks, spam makes up from 80% to 95% of all incoming email.

Generally, you don't want to configure your network spam filters to be too aggressive, or you'll get false positives (legitimate email messages will be blocked). But that means some spam will make it through to your desktop computer. For that, you can use a host-based spam filtering program like IHateSpam or the junk mail filters that are built into popular email clients such as Outlook. What's the point of using both? Well, even if the host based filters could catch them all, you wouldn't want hundreds of thousands of spam messages filling up your local hard drive or going into your Outlook junk mail folder for you to sort through when a message you were expecting doesn't come through.

The two tiered approach works well because the network-based program does the "heavy lifting" for you. Companies like Sunbelt make spam filtering programs such as IHateSpam and Ninja both for individual computers and for networks with their own mail servers. Email security software like Ninja not only filters spam but also protects email from viruses and malware.

Server-side spam filters can be expensive, and you may not run your own mail server. But if you get your mail through an ISP or web-based mail provider, your provider probably has server-side filters implemented. You might not even realize it unless there's a problem: either their filters are configured too aggressively and you fail to get mail you wanted, or their filters fail and you get a big batch of spam dumped into your mailbox. The latter happened recently to Gmail users, who are used to Google's filtering working in the background:

Who's sending all this spam, anyway? Going back to my daily spam report, 98% of the messages for that day were blocked using RBLs, or "real-time blackhole lists" of frequent spammers. Specifically, 243,674 messages came from the known spammers on those lists. Another 4204 messages were blocked because they were sent to invalid recipients. In other words, spammers just made up random names and appended them to our domain name. Only 319 messages were identified as spam using keywords and heuristics.

Despite this enormous volume of spam, my mailbox stays pretty clean. That is, unless/until the server that runs the network spam filtering software goes down. That doesn't happen often - thank goodness - but when it does, watch out. Suddenly we're deluged with a flood of email and some of it is downright ugly.

Some types of spam are easy for the filtering software to detect. I never see the disgusting graphical porn spam anymore (unless the spam filtering server fails). The ones that do make it through now are primarily well disguised Nigerian scam messages (designed to look like personal messages) and ads that target IT pros and can be hard to distinguish from the legitimate tech newsletters that I get. According to TRACElabs, over 70% of spam messages are health-related (and I would guess that 70% of those are for medications such as Viagra). The same report said the leading source of spam is now Brazil, although the U.S. comes in second.

Some sources say email spam is certain to increase in the future. They cite a decline in old-fashioned direct mail advertising - you know, the kind that goes through the postal service - and say advertisers who once used that tactic will be turning to email because it's cheaper and easier. In fact, a recent study by Borrell Associates found that there has been a 39 percent decrease in spending on traditional paper-based junk mail.

Believe it or not, there can be a downside to having good anti-spam software. McAfee released a recent report noting that because spam filters have gotten so much better, users have become complacent about the mail that does get through, and often trust it when they shouldn't. They note that some spammers and phishers are creating email that looks like it comes from sites users trust, such as or Facebook. If you're used to receiving Facebook notifications every day and clicking the links in them to reply to a post, you can be lured into clicking a malicious link in a message designed to emulate one of those notifications.

Tell us what your recent experiences have been in regard to spam. Are you getting more or less of it than before - or is the volume holding steady? Do you prefer to have your mail filtered for you by your provider, or are you afraid of losing good mail that way? Do you use third party host-based filtering software or do you just rely on the filters built into your mail program? Let us know at

You can also discuss this topic and any other of interest on the forums at

Follow-up: Going Green

As I anticipated, we got plenty of fiery responses to last week's article on "green" computing, even though I didn't take a stance on it one way or the other. Some berated me for daring to call human-induced global warming a "theory" (apparently it's actually a religion, at least for some) while others on the other side chastised me severely for suggesting that the "green" trend is inevitable and can even save us money. Wow. There are lots of strong feelings out there, as I suspected there would be. Here are a few of the responses that are fit to print:

Robert N. said, " How can you even suggest that it could be a matter of 'believing' or that short-term costs and hardships should have any impact on determining what to do when it comes to 'greening' our lives? And policymakers don't believe in environmentalism any more than most people do, what's being done along those lines is next to nothing, usually just greenwashing. So yes, if anyone'd actually start doing what really needs to be done, it will cost a lot and will make lives of people significantly harder for a while, but that's nothing compared to what will happen if we don't."

Ruth L. expresses equally strong sentiments: " Global warming is a scam. Create fear, gain control, grab power, and bring on the big bucks." And Steven H. writes: " My opinion is that 'green' has become an industry unto itself that will require just Americans to spend extra dollars after the government taxes energy consumption to a degree that we have no choice but to comply ... In the end, it is a method that will enable the government to control our lives in ways no one believes possible now."

Bob R. wrote: "Power consumption is governed more by people's attitudes than limitations of technology. Europeans and now the Chinese are recognising that if we do not act now we may be too late to reverse it without huge pain by 2020."

Dave S. offers these observations in regard to the increasing volume of legislation mandating "green" everything: "1. Your founding fathers (I'm Canadian so they're not mine) left Europe to get away from that kind of Gov't meddling. 2. What happens in Europe regarding energy is just a small slice of a much larger societal pie, a society that is very much the antithesis of American society."

But another Canadian, Wolf K., takes the opposite view: "So government regulations will "force companies to go green"? Gee, wait a second while I wipe tears from my eyes. Oops, there ain't any -- nasty dry-eyed me. ;-) The fact is that there is insufficient regulation in all respects."

Tony W. asks, " How long will it be before Mr Ordinary Citizen (is there any left?) realises that all this energy control hysteria, green groaning and carbon jargon is either a mistake in the estimations or simply another crackpot idea to keep us all scared and requiring our respective governments to save us."

Bill says, "It's more than much ado about nothing, since one group of people is forcing their will upon another. My first inclination at being force to do something is to resist. This is supposed to be a free country and I tend to take offense at 50% of the will of the country being imposed upon the other 50%. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against conservation. I do quite a bit on my own on what I think is reasonable and responsible. I believe in recycling more that reuse once. I don't believe in the tactics of most of the conservation groups use."

Mike M. provides this perspective from the field: "Being a home builder we're faced with this issue on a daily basis. Some of the ideas make sense and others cross way over the stupid boundary ... the technology exists to build a 'zero energy' house. The problem is the high cost and very few people can afford it. I prefer to refer to the 'Green' issue as shades of green. It is not a yes or no question, rather what shade of green are you willing to pay for."

Sue W. gives us some "insider info" about trees and paper: "There is an inference in your statement that paper coming from trees is a bad thing and that not using paper saves trees and that is a good thing ... Tree farming is an industry and as with other farming industries, the product is replenished. The argument around cutting trees for paper is analogous to those who believe cutting trees for decorating at Christmas is not a good thing as the tree gets destroyed. The reality is that there are Christmas tree farms."

Finally, Chris F. starts out with "I work for the NASA and FAA weather research program. I see the data used to 'support' global warming claims before the alarmists start to 'edit/correct' it. I cannot speak for the Agencies. I can tell you that the globe has not warmed significantly since 1970. It has actually cooled a bit (0.25 degrees F)." But he adds, "I have been a conservationist for the past 50 years. It is a good goal. It is a goal that should be pursued in a logical cost - benefit frame work, not pursued at all cost because a global crisis is - or isn't - looming."

And John G. offers some practical analysis: " I think the greening of the computer industry, while commendable, isn't the main source of power consumption: much public (mis)information doesn't do its sums properly. For example, we have frequent exhortations not to leave things on standby in the home, but virtually no pressure to turn lights off _at work_. (Especially in sunny weather!) Where computers are concerned, I think there are two areas that need attention: corporate backup/update, and hibernate/sleep/bootup."

Thanks to all of you for your input on this topic.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called VistaNews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

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Quotes of the Week

I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend? - Robert Redford

If the federal government had been around when the Creator was putting His hand to this state, Indiana wouldn't be here. It'd still be waiting for an environmental impact statement. - Ronald Reagan

Modern man's capacity for destruction is quixotic evidence of humanity's capacity for reconstruction. The powerful technological agents we have unleashed against the environment include many of the agents we require for its reconstruction. - George Will

Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!

 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without


All New Free Optimize 3.0 Scan - World's Most Popular PC Tune-Up

Backblaze is the no fuss solution to getting all your data backed up online securely, easily, automatically, and for only $5/month for unlimited storage.

PC Tune-Up: 4 Easy Steps That Eliminate Frustrating Slow Computer Problems:

Registry First Aid 7.0 - New Release Is Faster, Safer and Even More Effective

Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Download the free trial version here.

Rip DVDs for your iPod/iPhone or Apple TV. Bundle includes video converter too! Try it free!

Vista gets bogged down very quickly! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:

Backups? GoodSync is an easy and fast way to backup and synchronize your emails, photos, iTunes, MP3s, and other important files.

Spotmau PowerSuite Professional 2008: Fantastic! All the tools necessary to fix most common computer problems. Clone and backup too!

Print Screen Deluxe is the realistic upgrade of the Windows version. You can crop - before the capture! Very quick!

 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Russia may file charges against Microsoft for retiring Windows XP

Who knew that a company isn't allowed to stop making a product? Under Russia's antitrust laws, it appears that's the case. The Federal Antimonopoly Service has accused Microsoft of forcing consumers to buy Vista by taking Windows XP off the retail market while demand for XP was still high. Interesting concept. Maybe I could use it to force Saturn to keep making Ions ... . It's worth a shot. Read more about the case here:

New phone runs XP

Forget the Windows Mobile operating system. If you want a full fledged handheld computer in your phone, you've got your wish - at least, if you live in China. A Chinese company is coming out with a mobile phone that runs Windows XP, with up to 1GB of RAM and from 8GB to 120GB of storage space. And unlike most phones, it will have a full sized USB port. Find out more here:

Google's netbook operating system: Windows Killer?

According to some folks, 2009 will be the "Year of Linux." Of course, we've been hearing that every year for at least a decade. I guess now that Linux has a whole 1% market share, the open source folks are feeling pretty confident. One source of this confidence is the hope that Google's free Android operating system for netbooks will be a Windows Killer. Of course, we had free Linux on netbooks before and they didn't sell very well in comparison to the Windows model but hey, one can always dream. Read more about the upcoming Android machines here:

What's cooking at Microsoft?

With Windows 7's release right around the corner (October 2009), a brand new and much improved search engine that just made its debut (Bing) and some exciting innovations to the Xbox 360 that include motion sensors and more connectivity, it can be hard to keep up with what's going on at Microsoft these days. This little slideshow gives a quick recap:

Google/Bing comparison tool

Can't decide which search engine you like best, Google or Microsoft's new Bing? This site allows you to enter a search query and return the results for both search engines so you can see the differences in results. Try it for yourself:

 How To: Using XP Features

How to migrate your XP files and settings to Windows 7

We've all heard that Microsoft won't support a direct in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7, and that has many XP users wondering if there's another way they can preserve their settings when they move up to Windows 7. Turns out that you can do it, with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (which is in beta). It's made for administrators to use on corporate networks but tech savvy consumers can use it, too. This video series shows you how:

 XP Security News

This month's Patch Tuesday to be a heavy one

There are a number of critical security patches coming on June 9th, this month's Patch Tuesday - and not all of them are from Microsoft. In addition to 10 security updates from Microsoft that affect Windows 2000 through Vista, Server 2003 and 2008 and most versions of Office, Adobe will be releasing security updates for Reader and Acrobat on the same day. Find out more details here:

 XP Question Corner

Installing XP on a Mac

I like the Mac hardware but I also prefer the Windows XP operating system. I figured now that Macs are "Intel inside" I should be able to install Windows. So I got a Macbook and installed XP Pro. For the most part it works fine but I noticed that the CTRL+ALT+DEL key combo doesn't work. I can plug a USB keyboard made for Windows computers in and that works but I don't want to have to carry a USB keyboard with me when I travel. Is there another way to fix this? Thanks. - Ed K.

The problem is that some of the keys on the Mac's keyboard function differently. The DEL function (what Apple called "forward delete") requires a key combination of its own, fn + delete. For a more portable and permanent solution, you can remap a DEL key on the laptop's keyboard using a key remapping utility. There is a key remapper in the free Windows Server 2003 resource kit, which can be installed on Windows XP as well as Server 2003. You can download it here:

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

Network adapter locks up after failed logon attempt

If you try to log onto a wired Ethernet network using 802.11x authentication with your XP computer, you may find that the network adapter locks up after a failed logon attempt, even though you have successfully logged on previously. This happens if you've had two previous failed logon attempts and haven't rebooted the computer to reset the failure counter. The obvious solution is to reboot, but Microsoft has a hotfix available to remedy the problem if you need it. Find out how to get it in KB article 884027 at

Your XP computer doesn't show up in the Network Map on a Vista computer

If you have a network that has computers running Windows Vista along with computers running Windows XP, you might find that the XP computers don't show up on the network diagram on the Vista computer. This happens because the link-layer topology discovery (LLTD) responder isn't installed on the XP system. You can download this component and install it on the XP machine or install a hotfix for XP SP3. Find out more in KB article 922120 at

 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

 Product of the Week

Keypad: Stores And Automatically Fills Passwords, Usernames, Credit Card Info And Much More.

Enter usernames, passwords, and fill-out shopping carts at light speed - all while protecting your identity from hackers and cyber-criminals. Keypad protects you by locking down your information, bypassing keyloggers, and foiling phishing scams. KeyPad injects your credit card, billing, shipping, and personal information directly into online shopping carts. Transactions are lightning fast, and secure from keystroke loggers and other security risks.

Phishers Foiled- Phishing websites try to trick you into giving them your critical information, but KeyPad cannot be fooled. Accidentally go to a phishing site and try to enter your information and KeyPad won't do it - alerting you to the scam. Download the free trial version here!

 About WXPnews

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These documents are provided for informational purposes only. The information contained in this document represents the current view of Sunbelt Software on the issues discussed as of the date of publication. Because Sunbelt must respond to changes in market conditions, it should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of Sunbelt and Sunbelt cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication.


This newsletter and website and may contain links to other websites with whom we have a business relationship. Sunbelt Software does not review or screen these sites, and we are not responsible or liable for their privacy or data security practices, or the content of these sites. Additionally, if you register with any of these sites, any information that you provide in the process of registration, such as your email address, credit card number or other personally identifiable information, will be transferred to these sites. For these reasons, you should be careful to review any privacy and data security policies posted on any of these sites before providing information to them.

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Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.