Outlook: Strain out spam and safeguard senders

Katherine Murray

Spam is such a looming presence in the world’s email, you’d be hard-pressed to find a mail application that doesn’t include some sort of spam management.

Here are the tools and techniques available to Microsoft Outlook users for dealing with the onslaught.

Despite recent stories about major spam-site takedowns, you’ve no doubt noticed that the number of unwanted messages filling your inbox is undiminished. And improvements in spam filtering are, at best, just keeping up with a rising tide. According to a recent Kaspersky Lab report, spammers sent out 72.2 percent of all the world’s email this past April — up 2.1 points from March. Even more disheartening, the volume of junk mail containing malicious links jumped dramatically after the recent explosions in Boston and Texas. Spammers see disasters as excellent opportunities to fleece generous — but also unwary — citizens.

There was a bit of good news in the report: the number of phishing emails was down ever so slightly, and malicious files were found in just 2.4 percent of all emails.

For the most part, the report confirms what we probably already know: most of the unwelcome mail we receive is annoying but not malevolent. That said, it takes just one email harboring a dangerous attachment or link to wreak havoc on our systems.

I used Office 2013 and Outlook.com to illustrate the following tips and techniques for reducing unwanted email. But these steps also apply directly to Office 2010 and, in general, to earlier versions of Office and other email systems.

Keep mail coming from the good senders

Spamming is a sophisticated business. One common technique spammers use to target valid email addresses is to include a Web beacon inside the message. The process is relatively simple. In a typical email, images download and appear only when you open the message. When the Web server receives the instruction to send picture data, it knows the email address is active. The recipient then get lots more spam. (Spammers will often trade or sell their lists of valid addresses, which means you’re on the hook for a long time.)

This article is part of our premium content. Join Now.

Already a paid subscriber? Click here to login.

= Paid content

All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2013-06-06:

Katherine Murray

About Katherine Murray

Katherine Murray is the author of My Windows 8.1 (Que, 2013), Microsoft Office 2013 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2013), My Evernote (Que, 2012), and other non-fiction books on business, parenting, and Earth-care topics. She also coauthored, with Woody Leonhard, Green Home Computing for Dummies (Wiley 2009), and she writes and tweets (@kmurray230) about green-tech, wellness, and other social issues.