Spam

Boston University uses SpamAssassin to automatically filter unwanted mail at the central mail gateway. Our centralized filtering helps to minimize the number of unwanted messages that get through to @bu.edu accounts, and the vast majority of people reading BU e-mail do not experience a significant problem with spam.  However, if you do want to know more about spam and filtering, the following information will be helpful.

How did spammers get my address?

Computers make it easy to automatically generate random combinations of numbers and letters that can then be prefixed to @bu.edu and sent out. In addition, viruses can use infected machines to send spam, in which case you could receive unwanted messages simply because you appear in the address book of someone who owns an infected computer.

Can I get a new e-mail address?

It’s very unlikely that getting a new e-mail address from BU will solve the problem. Everyone with an @bu.edu e-mail address is a target for the same kind of automatically-generated spam.

Managing Spam

It’s inevitable that you will get some unwanted mail because there is no perfect system for filtering it. However, the options outlined below are available for managing the spam that gets through BU’s automated filtering and you can use these methods in whatever way provides the optimal results for your situation.

Manually delete your unwanted mail

Because BU’s centralized filtering is very effective, many people do not use other forms of filtering and simply delete the unwanted messages that do get through. For those who do not get an objectionable amount of spam, this is the method that provides the most control over what you get in your Inbox – delete what you don’t want and keep what you do.

Use the Junk E-mail settings within your mail client

Most e-mail clients have a way for you to do Junk Mail (or comparable) filtering. Within Outlook 2010, for example, you would select Junk->Junk E-Mail Options and within Outlook 2011 go to Tools->Junk E-mail Protection. Both versions of Outlook will allow you to turn on Outlook’s filtering and determine what should happen to the messages that are tagged as Junk. You can also create Safe Domains and Blocked Senders lists.

Spam management information specific to Google Apps users is outlined here:
http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=78759

Filter the scored (suspicious) messages into a separate folder

All incoming messages that look suspicious to SpamAssassin (scored between 5 and 7.5) are tagged with an X-Score-High: YES in the message header (see more details on tagging in the upcoming section). You can opt to use that tag in order to filter suspicious messages into a separate folder. If you do this level of filtering, please be sure to review and purge that folder periodically so you won’t miss messages you actually wanted, or risk going over quota.

Select your mail client to learn how to filter messages using X-Score-High: YES

Note: Links will open the IS&T website in a new window

Modify your default SpamAssassin settings

By default, BU e-mail accounts do not receive spam that is tagged at a SpamAssassin level 7.5 or higher – it is blocked entirely. In addition, SpamAssassin will score something as suspicious at a levels that come in between 5 and 7.5.  You can choose to modify those default settings. However, you should keep in mind that you will always get some unwanted mail and you need to be careful not to set such low thresholds that you block or tag mail you actually do want to get.

To review or change your default SpamAssassin settings:

Note: You might find that you need to repeat these steps a few times until you get a balance of settings that seems right to you based on the impact that the changes have to your incoming mail.

1. Go to www.bu.edu/directory/change-entry.html

2. Once you are on that page, scroll down and login to the BU Electronic Directory.

Log in

3. Once you are in your directory settings, scroll down to the the Spam Filtering section where you can make the desired change(s) and then Submit.

See a sample settings change below. This person has opted for a lower threshold (to make filtering more restrictive) by lowering from 5 to 4 the point at which a message will be tagged as spam. Please note that this is just a sample settings change and not a recommendation. The recommended settings are those that have been set by default.

threshold-sample