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How to reduce incoming spam by 800%

Matthew Chatfield

About twice a year The Ranger pokes his head around the virtual email filters and goes looking at the spam in person. It’s not a pretty sight – and invariably gives him cause for a rueful shake of the head on this blog.

Some genuine spam sent to Naturenet

The daily toll of spammy gadflies battering themselves hopelessly against Naturenet’s Spam Arrest system has inexorably risen:

Date Spam stopped per day
Feb 2006 1200
Nov 2006 1750
Apr 2007 3200
December 2007 5000 (with a peak of 8000 on Christmas Day)

Looks pretty much like a trend! You probably don’t need to get your graph paper out to see where this is all going. So it was with some alarm that The Ranger received an email from his friends at Spam Arrest to say:

Beginning February 2008… your Spam Arrest account will be subject to a fee of $0.25 for every 1,000 emails over the monthly 100,000 unverified email limit

That set The Ranger thinking – well, it would, wouldn’t it? He already pays an annual fixed fee to Spam Arrest and is glad to. But if it’s bad enough to get all that spam how galling if every single one costs extra money? Unthinkable! Time for a look even further into the email set-up. Now Naturenet, hosted for nearly a decade by the very kind people at Garrison Investment Analysis was set up back when email spam was still fairly unusual. So when The Ranger configured it, he set up what’s called a ‘catch-all’ email address. That means that if someone sends an email to, the catch-all will catch it and forward it to the main inbox. Very handy if you’ve got various things going on, like Ask The Ranger, other hosted websites, various family members, and no end of other flotsam and jetsam over ten years of internet use. But wait a minute – in those ten years something else has come along, the broadcast spammer. Rather than try to get hold of your email address spammers now send billions of emails to made-up addresses at random, hoping that just a few hit home. So if you have a catch-all address working, guess what? You get absolutely loads of spam to nonsense addresses. Up until now, that hasn’t mattered to The Ranger. But now it does, and so the catch-all was unceremoniously turned off on 1 Jan 2008. A few forwarding addresses were created for the few active emails remaining of all the various old ones hanging around, and that was that. Take a look at the result – what a difference!

Spam 2008

Naturenet spam report from the end of 2007

Down from 8000 spams per day on Christmas Day (really, have they no better way to celebrate?) to a mere 100 per day today. That’s an 800% drop by merely changing one email configuration. If you control the email for any domain, and you have the option to use a catch-all, let The Ranger give you some advice you probably already know: don’t use a catch-all email. Turn it off, and avoid a massive dose of spam.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

2 thoughts on “How to reduce incoming spam by 800%

  • The Virtual Ranger

    Good point – although I have a vague idea that ‘postmaster@*’ is required for compliance with something-or-other. The rest can go straight to the bin though.

  • It also pays to not use ‘typical and predictable’ email addresses like “webmaster” or “admin”. The spammers ALWAYS hit those figuring everyone always has them because everyone always expects them.


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