back to article Why is Hotmail so bad at spam?

I'm trying very hard to be sympathetic towards Hotmail, and I'm failing, badly. It's not the Microsoft connection that makes me fed up, it's just Hotmail. Here's today's inbox: From my contacts: 2 (2) Marquita@viagra.com RE: Online Canadian Pharma... admin@speedtrader.co... RE: Daily News If you believe I have a …

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Les

Hotwot?

My Passport is associated with a real email address - no Hotmail required. Have they stopped letting people sign up that way,or is it just that people don't know about it?

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Anonymous Coward

dumb, dumber, dumbest

Another characteristic of a non-functioning spam filter implementation is that it doesn't improve over time. I've lost count of the number of times I've consigned DeVry University to the Spam folder. Any halfway decent filter would quickly learn the rule that DeVry in the subject line = spam in the message.

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Anonymous Coward

What are you moaning about?

Why on earth does anyone use Hotmail? Having a Hotmail account is a newbie's mistake, you're only one step up the social ladder from an AOL user.

Both my mum and my aunt have got Hotmail accounts, they're both over sixty and haven't got a clue when it comes to computers, so they don't know any better.

I've got a Passport account - but it didn't involve Hotmail at all, so I don't know where that came from.

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Legitimate senders

Hotmail are impossible to cope with from a legitimate sender's point of view too. I run a subscription based website and to validate accounts, customers need to click on a link in their email. I get almost daily complaints from Hotmail users claiming we haven't sent them their emails. I have the same problem with BT Internet addresses - and they don't even receive them in their bulk/spam folders, they just vanish, without even a bounce message back to me.

Requiring senders to cough up sounds a good idea but would wipe out legitimate newsletters and website subscription systems like mine. There's no way we could afford even a penny per email when we're sending out tens of thousands of emails a week.

I wouldn't mind some kind of sender verification system except that the general public are dumb and wouldn't be able to figure it out if they had to actually do something to be able to receive emails.

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Silver badge

Not just spam filtering is going on here...

HotMail is bad at spam on purpose because it's just a marketing vehicle to force hapless "users" into using MS products and nothing else. The example of Outlook 2003 working and a.n.other. mail client not working is exactly the kind of reprehensible "marketing" scheme that MS are very good at. (Others include "support" for other browsers than IE in sharepoint - ie, rewriting sharepoint to use ActiveX as much as possible and even then reducing the functionality available outside of this if the browser is detected as being non-IE.)

MS want users to pay for premium hotmail (thereby harvesting their personal details), outlook clients and to further force businesses into using MS only tools in the workplace.

Basically, the only people who use hotmail are, to put it bluntly, either idiots or gullible in the extreme. There always have been far, far better free e-mail providers out there and will almost certainly continue to be.

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Quit whining

and get a Yahoo! account.

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Look after your email address

If people looked after their email addresses better and were more careful about who they gave it out to there would be much less of a problem. It is all very well blaming Hotmail for the problem but if you don't want spam look after your email.

I'm had the same Hotmail email account for years and years. In the last 12 months I've had less than 10 bits of spam in my inbox. It's not even as if I have an obscure un-guessable address as it is in the firstnamelastname@hotmail.com format.

Why don't I get a ton of spam? Because I don't use it on untrustworthy websites. If I do want to give an email to an untrusted website I use my generic throw away account that I only look when I'm expecting an immediate response from the website I signed up for.

Even better I use an email account that lets me put anything I like before the @. So when I signed up for this site I used theregister@mydomain.co.uk. So if any of the sites I signed up for do pass my details on someone else I know which one did it.

My point? Don't blame Hotmail for failing to catch spam if you've done nothing to avoid it yourself.

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clueless

I read the first page of your article and didnt bother with the second becasue it is so obvious you have NO clue how spam filters work. And you have no idea the lengths spammers go to to find ways to defeat the detection systems.

It is very easy for a human to spot a spam message as they know its something they dont recognise.

Its a very dark road you go down when you start word or partial word blocking.

You suggest blocking 'loto' .So a domain that i own that is blotord.com gets blocked? Keep going on that thought and it never ever stops. You havent really though this out have you?

When someone complains about levels of spam, its actually only relevant to how much was stopped. You might get 10 per day, but what if Hotmail were stopping another 200?? So only 5% is getting to you and you complain? Yeah, better Hotmail didnt bother and let you deal with the other 200 too.

I am not , however, defending Hotmail here, they suck, but if you are going to write an article, please do a bit of rational thinking on general issues first.

Otherwise it tends to invalidate your entire opinion, even if you are correct on some points.

Regards

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Rob

I'm confused....

.... I've got what I thought was a hotmail account (or Live as it now is) but I can't have as I don't get anywhere near the amount of grief you are.

My spam filter works fine and most UI tweaks I have suggested in the earlier part of the Beta seemed to have been implemented and makes it v.easy via it's web interface. Slightly unhappy they don't have a full mobile sync with WinMo but hey can't have everything.

When I first had a hotmail account many years back it did suffer badly from spam but since the upgrades it's done really well, at least 90% better than the work email service which I spend more time adding spam to the list than I do my hotmail.

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Silver badge

It's true

I haven't used hotmail for years. My father still does, and he gets LOADS of spam. Even when he blacklists the domain it still gets thru. I, on the other hand, have my own email server running, with spamassasin. I haven't even configured that properly. I then run Thunderbird, with spam detection, and have very few problems (even though I get HUGE amounts of spam every day).

And like Robin and Batman... er Les, I use passport with my own email (actualy set up with a responder to tell the person not to use that address, to MSN me for my real address)

To cut a long story short, why would you want to use Hotmail if you know anything about computers?

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I don't know...

I've had a Hotmail account since MSN bought them out or merged or whatever it was that they did. (I originally had MSN).

I'd rather have a few spam mails get through to me than have legitimate emails from people not in my contact list, get sent to the junk folder. I never remember to check that thing.

MSN/Hotmails spam filtering has got a lot better since I first started using it back in '02 or so. At first, very other day I was actually getting spam with x-rated images ether sent to the inbox, or more than likely, to the junk folder. Then the images stopped showing up in those emails. Then the crap emails like that stopped all together.

I still get hit with a few pieces of spam every few days - but seriously, what's the big deal? Spam filters will never-ever be totally on top of filtering out ALL spam. It's a game of cat and mouse - the spammers are always thinking of new ways to sneak something through, while the filters are just playing catch-up.

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Once upon a time...

The only way to get a MS Passport was with a hotmail address. And then they insisted that the only way to get information out of MSDN was to have a passport. C'est la vie!

I don't use it for anything interesting, but most of mmy accounts all over the place are signed up using that address, so it's easier to keep it on.

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Anonymous Coward

Laziness.

I know that's why I still use Hotmail. It's the account I signed up to email lists ages ago when it was shiny and new, and it's more hassle to change than a phone number, so I haven't. [shrug] But I don't complain about its shortcomings. I have a gmail account, but after a brief spell of enthusiasm for it, I hardly use it any more.

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Some advice that seems to work...

Make the start of your hotmail address long, and strange. I have been through two hotmail addresses over a period of at least 7 years. The old one had 18 characters and the new one has 22. They both used strange phrases and/or nonsense words, and to date I have not had a single piece of spam delivered to either one. No idea why, but saved me a hell of a lot of grief.

I know, I know, I shouldn't use hotmail in the first place - but I need MSN and now everyone I know uses my MSN email because they know it from there.

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M

Since when an unwanted email from...

Microsoft isn't filter as spam despise many attempt logging it as spam...

Hotmail = Spam whore...

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Um...

I don't see why people use hotmail. you don't need to use it as a passport any email will do now.. and gmail's spam filter works great...

Hotmail was big in the early 000's when there was no better alternative.. i didn't think it was used much now days, except by cabbages and people just trying to hold on to it for that once in a life time email from some long forgotton friend

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Anonymous Coward

"any ordinary human would be able to detect this as spam"?

Presumably you mean any ordinary human who can read Vietnamese.

Of course, if you can't read Vietnamese, then it's a bit suspicious that they're writing to you in that language ...

Perhaps e-mail services should let users specify which languages they are interested in receiving e-mail in, and language identification could be part of the spam filtering.

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What?

Your complaining about spam in FREE email... This is the most stupid article I've read on the register to date. I've been using the same hotmail address for 3 years and get ZERO spam. Manage your address properly, and you wont have this problem.

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Newbies

{{Why on earth does anyone use Hotmail? Having a Hotmail account is a newbie's mistake, you're only one step up the social ladder from an AOL user.}} - Robin Lee

I would just like to say people use Hotmail so much because of the social ladder i mean do you really think it would be so popular if people never used msn messenger.

If you want a reliable emailing account, you should spend time setting up the rules for your email account otherwise don't bother complaining.

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You do know that

the hotmail spam filter is set to "low" by default... right?

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Silver badge

Manage your address properly, and you wont have this problem.

If only it were that simple. You've also got to ensure that no-one who gets an email from you ever gets hacked or their address book (some Viri do this), that your ISP doesn't get hacked, the list goes on.

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ian

It's not all bad

Whenever anyone I know tries to send an email to Hotmail from a PlusNet account, it never arrives. So it's clearly identified PlusNet as the spamming scoundrels they are.

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Rob

Devil's Advocate

".. and gmail's spam filter works great..." By Matthew

lol.. I have to finger more Spam in my gmail than I do my Hotmail, ironic or what.

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JimC is right

JimC is right. I get lots of spam addressed to my work e-mail address because someone outside the (Windows-free) office got infected with some kind of malware.

I'm lucky enough to have my own domain and my own MX, so I can issue individual prefixes to everyone who might ever need to e-mail me. This includes mailing lists. I've put my own rules in $HOME/spamassassin/user_prefs which add 20 points to mail addressed to address I use for the list, then subtract 20 points from mail actually originating from the list.

If it's true that MSN are rejecting e-mail from Mozilla clients, they may well be running afoul of European law regarding anti-competitive behaviour.

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Funnily enough...

...so do I. And ALL that I ever use the HM one for is signing up to websites I don't trust with my real one, and commenting on blogs. Using complicated email addresses helps I expect. Presumably spammers bruteforce email addresses to send spam to as well as collecting them? If not, I claim patent rights and will see you all in court...

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Exageration

I have several email accounts, and hotmail is actually the best of them with regard to spam filtering. People love a good diatribe (especially against Microsoft products). It's a guaranteed way for someone like Mr. Kewney to get on The Register and probably get pushed to the front page of digg.com. Now if he could have just tied this to global warming, he's get on the evening television news.

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This post has been deleted by its author

You provided your own answer

You ask why is "Microsoft Hotmail" so bad at [insert pretty much anything to do with the Internet here].

The answer is "Microsoft." The arrogant fuckwits at Microsoft have *always* thought they could ignore existing standards, invent their own, and impose those inventions on everyone else by sheer force. this is a prime example of why no Microsoft product should ever be allowed to directly contact the Internet (e.g., there should always be a standards-compliant server between any MS crapware and the Internet).

Incidentally, MS Hotmail is not allowed to deliver email to *my* mail server, either. I got tired of all the spam they cheerfully forwarded to my customers, without, in over five years, ever *once* forwarding a legitimate non-spam email.

Hotmail can go stew in their own sewage. Google Mail is doing a good job, for a freemail provider. Hell, even Yahoo does a better job than Hotmail.

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MSN coupling

Hotmail's used a lot, not for email, but for the MSN service. Yes, I can have a Passport w/o msn/hotmail addresses, but its a hassle for the computer-illiterate (I know of a friend that still has that "Unverified email address" stuck on her nickname), and they are not interested in learning how to do this. They want quick, fool.proof messaging. Opening an MSN acct. does exactly this.

Of course, spam isn't the only concern. For years, Hotmail stuck to the 2Mb (TWO MEGABYTE) space limit on the email service. Even when Yahoo upped the limit to 100 Mb, and Gmail came out, they *still* kept the crappy 2Mb limit.

When they finally upped the limit ... it was to 250 Mb. And *only* to US subscribers (telling non-US users to f*** off, basically). As a result, many users switched their hotmail addy info to a US address, which wasn't that hard; I wonder if M$ wonders why are there about a zillion users in Beverly Hills 90210 ;). I had briefly lived in the US and forgot to update my addy back to Mexico, so I got the benefit.

Still.... 250 is nothing near to what Gmail offered. Yahoo! upped! to! 1Gb! after Gmail. The first time Hotmail upped to 2Gb was only when it started the Beta version of Live Hotmail.

It seems like M$ doesn't care about its hotmail service.

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Yahoo is FAR WORSE than Hotmail!! AND Yahoo doesn't care either!

I have three Hotmail and three Yahoo accounts, all used the obvious - junk mail receptacles, service signups, writing to stupid people who then put your mail address on BULK group mailings of jokes, etc.

I get FAR MORE SPAM through the filters at Yahoo than Hotmail on ANY day! AND it's obvious SPAM!! Subject lines with scrambled letters and words, along with the obvious repetative sales ploys of stock offering to obscene material! Yahoo LETS IT ALL THROUGH, even after I've selected higher levels of filtering and marked the same ol shit SPAM time after time for years!

What's worse about fu@ked up Yahoo, is that I've been forwarding THEM the obvious SPAM referenced above everytime for the last 6 months with a note of when the hell are they going to MAKE THEIR FILTERS WORK for a change?

You know what you'll get back from caring good Yahoo? The SAME form email for months upon months upon months. Is there anyone really ever reading your complaints at Yahoo? Shit NO!

Yeah, Yahoo sucks just as bad if not much worse than Hotmail.

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You get what you pay for

It's a mistake to blame Hotmail for bad customer service unless you happen to be paying them. Their customers are their advertisers who pay for the attention of those who use their "free" email accounts. The latter is the commodity that Hotmail sells to their customers. To stay in business, Hotmail will do the minimum it takes to keep their advertising fodder from going away and failing to give attention to their real customers. Having a "free" email account for more than testing and occasional partial anonymity purposes is telling the rest of the world that your attention and privacy are for sale to a very cheap bidder.

One thing some of these services can be useful for is setting up baited spamtraps which can be processed automatically using scripted clients to tell where spam is coming from, in order to block the stuff that arrives at proper mail accounts more easily, but as Hotmail seems to tear the envelope and body headers containing the originating IP address off your email before delivering it, you need to find other providers even for this purpose. Spambaited Hotmail accounts and scripted clients could probably still be used productively for URL blacklists which make Spamassassin more efficient.

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Silver badge

Hotmail hosting spammers

What happens when you send a complaint to abuse@hotmail.com about a mailbox used for a pyramid scheme or 419 scam?

"If you are reporting Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail (also known as Spam or Junk E-Mail), please resubmit your report to report_spam@hotmail.com or report_spam@msn.com depending on the spammer’s domain. Appropriate actions will be taken."

"Abuse@hotmail.com and abuse@msn.com do NOT process spam reports."

You e-mail the abuse contact in Microsoft's ARIN records and get back a message saying that your complaint has been discarded. I don't accept Hotmail anymore.

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Anonymous Coward

did you know

all of Bradford university is on a Spam list at hotmail. even tutors cannot send mail to their students if hosted at hotmail. The university takes Spam very seriously but still they banned us. what a system!

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Anonymous Coward

Hotmail useless?

Well, I've had a hotmail address for a couple of years now and it's never had a single spam sent to it. Why? because I'm careful who I give the address to.

Hotmail users whining about the spam they receive and/or the ham they never see is one thing. What I would like to see is Hotmail giving a rat's derrière about the humungous amounts of spam their users *send*. Furthermore, if you report the spam to (what passes for) Hotmail's abuse desk, you get an auto-ack in reply basically saying that it wasn't them and explaining how to make adjustments in Outlook.

WTF?

I can read headers as well as anyone out there (and obviously better than a Hotmail abuse monkey) and I don't let *ANY* Microsoft garbageware get anywhere near any of my machines, not even the O/S is from Microsoft.

The auto-ack is probably generated by a ’bot written by Microsoft (which would explain why it doesn't work correctly) designed specifically to blow the complainant off and thus aid and abet the spammers.

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Silver badge

spam - what spam?

There's a simple solution - move to a mail server using spam assassin - we have about 10 users on our own domain, hosted in-house with spam assassin scanning everything coming in, and we each get maybe two to three spam emails per day in our in-boxes - and about 200-300 pieces of junk in the spam folder. We run AV software on the mail server (around 10-30 per day) and don't bother with running individual packages on the desktops.

Life is sweet.

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J

Hotmail=Spambox

I have been using Hotmail since about 1995 or so. When it was new I thought it was the bomb because it was free and I could check my mail from any computer anywhere. I have never "upgraded" or paid M$ a dime for Hotmail. The author has a point, it seems to me that a larger amount of spam is allowed into my inbox as an "incentive" to "upgrade" to better spam protection. Because of this my Hotmail account eventually became my spam account. I use it whenever I am required to give an email address to a website (Like just now when I created this account for the Register). I have had much better luck with Yahoo.

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Anonymous Coward

Missing the point

I think a lot of commentors are missing the point, regardless of whether it is provided for free or not, they are providing as service and publishing service metrics. Maybe the users aren't paying, but someone is and the use for free by the people that sign up is how the revenue is generated, so they need to provide the service as offered, which includes SPAM filtering.

For those that said "Manage your address", etc... Do this experiment: Sign up for a new account, use a weird address, ala: dsfkjhefrefjbe222@hotmail.com or whatever. Log out and don't tell anyone the address and don't send a message from this account. Log back in after about 2 weeks and you will have a ton of spam. This is a problem, they are offering a service, making representations of levels of service and then failing to provide the services.

BTW, you can play with the SPAM filter settings in the above example and you will still get SPAM. So, how does SPAM get to a nonsensical email address that is never used? Hotmail is hacked man! The spammers have insiders and they have viruses and trojans and what-have-you all over the environment.

I sympathize with those that have accounts that feel they can't switch as sooo many people have their old address, well, it's a lot of work, but its worth the switch. Find a better free service, or better yet, pay someone to host your mail and tell your contacts that you have a new address.

Regards,

--Pete

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Missing the point

Pete McPhedran writes: "BTW, you can play with the SPAM filter settings in the above example and you will still get SPAM. So, how does SPAM get to a nonsensical email address that is never used?"

http://www.spam.com/legal/spam/

Quote: ‘We do not object to use of [spam] to describe UCE, although we do object to the use of the word "spam" as a trademark and to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters.’

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Anonymous Coward

1984 Courtesy of SafeScreen

I have spent 2 weeks working on this situation and would be VERY happy to be interviewed to expose the nightmare that MSFT has caused us. There are now what one would think legimitate ISP's that are using SmartScreen (in itself a HUGE oxymoron) that are now shutting off huge parts of the internet. All these same ISP's are blaming MSFT for your legit site getting blacklisted and silently accept and delete your inbound email with nary a bounce, thus a violation of RFC-822 and RC-2822.....

In my case i have thrown huge amounts of time changing DNS, implementing SPF, an anti-spam gateway, more rule and other changes than you can shake a stick at. I have been an SMTP & DNS administrator since 1984 (strange, this whole experience is very Orwellian!). we run a VERY legimitate site, and have no open relays, false DNS, or other headaches associated with the issues to hand. The end result is my 70 ++ year old parents are screwed in receiving our email, helpless to know what to do, and i and my business partner have spent more than 100 hours in the past 2 weeks, just to be continualled screwed at each new turn by MSFT. Contact me if you'd like to take your story even more mainstream -- people need to know what the Nightmare on SafeScreen street truly is!

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Anonymous Coward

Re[2]: Missing the point

"Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters."

- I stand corrected, thank you anonymous corrector of trademark infringement. I really had no idea that was a bad use of the word.

--Pete

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MSN?

I've had a passport and MSN account for many years and i've always had it bound to my Yahoo! email address.

I get spam into my Yahoo! account, but 95% of the time it's filtered off into the spam folder. Works fine for me.

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Sneak through their filters then

I had the same problem. *All* of my legitimate personal mail to hotmail accounts was being dropped. Apart from any replies to messages I was doing. Hotmail wouldn't tell me why. So I configured my mail server to add the following spoofed headers to any message going to hotmail that doesn't already have the headers:

References: <BAY000-000000000000000000000000000@phx.gbl>

In-Reply-To: <BAY000-000000000000000000000000000@phx.gbl>

Success. Now hotmail considers my email considerably less spammy and lets it practically all through. If you pad the headers with something like 50KB of nonsense as well, they consider your message much less spammy. Such as vast quantities of these headers:

X-Hotmail-Fodder: 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

Exim users see: http://exim.org/mail-archives/exim-users/Week-of-Mon-20070611/msg00130.html for a solution

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SPAM (tm)

Hmm. I wonder. Would anyone still remember their brand if not for.......

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Anonymous Coward

White list

Just use the white list functionality. It's a lot easier than maintaining a black list. Besides, it's easier to phish if the recipient thinks their spam blocking software is working - better to be paranoid.

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Silver badge

And this nearly a decade after "Internets" became a household word

As read somewhere far above:

>> If people looked after their email addresses better and were more careful

>> about who they gave it out to there would be much less of a problem. It is all

>> very well blaming Hotmail for the problem but if you don't want spam look after

>> your email.

Every time someone writes a phrase like this, God kills a bunch of kittens.

Please, think of the kittens!!

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Spam

I've tried the test recommended above, that being make new hotmail addresses, and never use them to see if they get spam.. and they end up getting huge amounts of spam. Eventually I got sick of hotmail dropping my account after 30 days and switched my main email to Gmail, and then I created a spam account for gmail as well. So anywhere I sign up gets the spam account (which I have forwarded to my main account). I never get a drop of spam email in my inbox. Not a drop. In the past 2 or so years I've used gmail I've had 1 or 2 legit emails get dropped into spam, and those were me signing up to a forum or what not. This email address gets plastered all over the net, but gmail manages to catch the spam from it. Morale of the story? It's not how well you guard your email address, it's how crappy hotmails spam filter is.

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Anonymous Coward

about as exciting, but only a fraction as worthwhile

Reading the first page of this article was about as exciting, but only a fraction as worthwhile, as deleting spam from my inbox.

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re: You get what you pay for

I pay absolutely nothing for my Gmail account.

I get an absolutely obscene amount of space (I still have the original mails from when I started the account, who cares?), I have in the past 30 days recieved 301 spam messages (Or so the spam folder tells me, I'm not going to bother counting) and as far as I'm aware, I have never lost even a single e-mail to a false positive.

And before you ask, in all my time with Gmail, from a month or two after the start of beta till now, I've recieved the grand total of 2 spam messages in my inbox.

Thusly, I pay nothing and I get far more then I could do, easily, myself, even if I were to pay for a spamfilter at my ISP and a professional spamfilter application to run on my computer. Best of all, google's spam filter doesn't gobble up my RAM and CPU time constantly.

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viri??

Did some smart alec really 'casually' throw that into a comment???

That's got to be one of the more annoying habits to surface in recent times! Virus is an English word, the accepted plural is viruses, not viri.

I wonder if this wannabe clever clogs uses the correct accustive, dative, genitive etc declensions of words with Ancient Greek/Latin origin? Or if he/she/it always (as I suspect, not that it would make it any worse if they didn't) uses the nominative form?

People who use this and other non-standard plurals out of what can only be sheer vanity should have their IPs permanently blocked from the entire interweb. (fora instead of forums must be the most common, but I've also seen people use the nominative singular erratum even when ablative case would have been applicable in the original language! Can you believe it?)

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Anonymous Coward

Hotmail = NotMail...

As already suggested by one of the previous contributors, just set up a filter rule in your MTA that rejects all inbound mail from HotMail domains (e.g. .com and .co.uk) with an error message that states "Mail not accepted from HotMail addresses - source of too much spam".

I've been doing this for years - no problems!

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