How To Set Up & Use SpamAssassin For Windows

crosshairs   How To Set Up & Use SpamAssassin For WindowsEven as the Internet has evolved over the years into and beyond what everyone calls “Web 2.0,” the scourge of spam that have plagued our email inboxes beginning from the earliest days still remain. In this article, I’m going to review an app called SpamAssassin for Windows that can help.

You can try various tricks to protect your email address from spambots, like using a spam-proof email generator for webpages,  or using Tina’s various creative techniques to hide and protect your address. In Tina’s other article on advice to get a grip on spam, she suggested one email filter application called Spamihilator that uses a spam-words list and a DCC-filter to identify spam.


All of these techniques will work, or they will at least cut back the amount of spam you receive for a while. However, in time, spam will eventually find its way into your inbox. There’s no place to hide. Email server administrators and network administrators at many corporations make use of highly efficient server side email filter apps.

One of the most effective and popular server side email filters that many administrators use is the Linux based open source Apache SpamAssassin Project. SpamAssassin is so popular because it isn’t just a simple word-based filter. The folks at SpamAssassin use a whole range of tests (both offline and online) in order to identify spam signatures and eradicate spam before it ends up in anyone’s inbox.

How You Can Have SpamAssassin For Windows

While SpamAssassin is very useful and effective when installed on email servers, you may not have access or control of the email server that you’re using. If you’re using Gmail or many other modern POP3 email accounts, various spam filtering techniques are in use today and the flow of spam isn’t quite as bad as it used to be – however, they still manage to get through.

One of the best free, open-source solutions for Windows users who would like to take advantage of the spam-killing power of SpamAssassin is SAWin32, or SpamAssassin for Windows.

sa2   How To Set Up & Use SpamAssassin For Windows

Installing the application is insanely easy. Part of the installation procedure involves inserting the name of the POP3 server that you use to retrieve your mail (SpamAssassin for Windows only works with POP3 servers). If you don’t know the name of your server, just check your email client (Outlook, Thunderbird, Etc…) account settings. Also, it doesn’t really matter what you type in this field at this stage – you’ll be changing the setting a little later in the configuration. Once the installation is complete and you run SAProxy (the name of the interface for this email filter), a small icon will appear on your taskbar.

sa3   How To Set Up & Use SpamAssassin For Windows

The icon is a small image of a magnifying glass over a document. Right click on the icon and select “Configure” so that you can get the filter settings squared away before setting up your email client to use this new local email filter.

sa4   How To Set Up & Use SpamAssassin For Windows

Leave all of the settings on the configuration tabs at their default settings. They will be fine for most typical POP3 accounts, although if you know what you’re doing, feel free to tweak any of the settings. The important thing at this point is to click on the “Host Map” tab and scroll all the way down, making sure that every single line is commented out with a “#” in front of it. In my file, you can see where I was playing around with using the Hostmap to configure my Gmail account – but now I’m just going to comment it out. This isn’t where we’ll be configuring the server settings.

How Your Email Client Talks to SpamAssassin For Windows

There are a few ways to configure the software. The way it works is that it runs in the background as a local proxy server for all of your POP3 email. This proxy server sits between you (your email client) and your POP3 email server. It accepts the email, processes the email by comparing the email to its large library of SpamAssassin spam signatures, it marks the spam and puts it wherever you want your spam put aside, and then sends the valid emails to your email client inbox. Just by installing the software as you’ve done, you have an email proxy server set up that you can access using  “127.0.0.1″ or “localhost”.

You could list the POP3 proxy server in the Hostmap file for the software, but doing so would limit you to the one POP3 email account. Instead, we’re going to not use the Hostmap file, and instead configure the client in a way that it sends SAproxy the appropriate account details depending which POP3 email account you want to access.

Here’s how you set up your client (using Thunderbird as an example):

sa5   How To Set Up & Use SpamAssassin For Windows

In the account settings section (Tools – Account Settings), click on Server Settings. Regardless of which email client you use, you’ll always set up your Server Name as “localhost” and port “110″. Also make sure Connection security is set to “None” and “Use secure authentication” is unchecked. The magic happens in the “User Name” field. In the User Name field, type your user name for the email account, followed by the POP3 server, followed by a semicolon and the port (if it’s not a standard 110), and another semicolon followed by whether the account uses SSL or not.

You type this as follows: “username.pop.myserver.com:995:ssl” or with a standard port and no SSL, it would be “username.pop.myserver.com” – save your settings and your mail will now be accessed from the POP3 server through your new spam filter proxy!

sa11   How To Set Up & Use SpamAssassin For Windows

Here, you can see SpamAssassin for Windows at work. After processing almost 30 messages, it already captured 3 spam messages that the Gmail filter missed. Also, if you want to identify which messages from SAProxy are marked as spam, just create an email filter that looks for the subject “*****SPAM*****” (that’s five asterisks on each side) and move those messages to a “spam” folder. Now you have your own local spam filter that’s just as good as most of the professional server-side filters used by major corporations. Enjoy a spam-free inbox!

Have you tried SpamAssassin, and did it work for you? Do you have any anti-spam solution that works better for you? Share your feedback in the comments section below.

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17 Comments -

0 votes

Ishan@ILoveFreeSoftware

This sounds like a really good option. I think the only thing I am not comfortable with is setting it up as a separate software. Would have been really nice if it could directly integrate with email client. There is a free software Spam Terrier that does that, but I am not sure if that is better than SpamAssasin in terms of identifying spam.

0 votes

Tim

Funny to see makeuseof.com advertising a way to stop spam when they’re guilty of causing it.

When I registered for this site I used my OtherInbox.com email address, which lets you create a unique address for each site you give your email. I created one like this: makeuseof@my_user_id.otherinbox.com. A couple months ago this mailbox started receiving loads of spam – porn, pharmacy crap, you name it – and the email address has never been used for anything other than registering for this website. Nice, huh?

0 votes

Konrad Walsh

Hey man, I think you accidentally left your server details visible on the last image.. you scrubbed them on the previous image..
r***.pop.gmail…….

anyway… good article.. will try this out

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Hi Tim – I don’t know about that, I’ve never personally had much of a spam problem with the email that I used to register at MUO. I’d imagine we’d get a lot of complaints if that was the case.

0 votes

Tim

Ryan, How do you know who your spam comes from though? Unless you have a unique address for each site, you don’t know why you’re getting spam. That’s the great thing about otherinbox.com. I can give a different email address to each site I register with, and I know who is selling my address to other mailing lists. So far only two sites have done this to me that I know of: this site and wishlist.com. I get about 1 spam email a day to my makeuseof address, 2 sometimes. So it’s not a lot, but there should be none – I’ve never used the email address anywhere but here.

And to be fair, I don’t know how the spammer got it. It’s possible MUO isn’t keeping their site secure and a spammer hacked in and stole their mailing list. Or perhaps an employee took it and decided to make a quick buck without MUO knowing. I don’t know how the spammers came to have my email address, but what I do know is that I’m getting spam sent to a mailbox that no one knows about except makeuseof.com. So one way or the other, it’s makeuseof.com’s fault.

0 votes

Konrad Walsh

Well you are probably wrong Tim… Spammers don;t just get emails from List Sellers
They use complex algorithms to spam every possible variant of an email address. Its simple really,

0 votes

Jim Hubbard

SAWin32 link shows a missing content page. Is there another link to this cool tool?

0 votes
0 votes

Jim Hubbard

thx!

0 votes

RichardBouty

Again spam mails, I use Spamihilator (freeware) for many years:

http://www.spamihilator.com/

I already tested SpamAssassin and I didn’t impress.

@Ryan Dube

Dube = Dubé in French???

I live in Montreal (Quebec), CANADA

Richard
My native language is French

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Hey Jim – this is the one: http://sawin32.sourceforge.net

0 votes

RichardBouty

Again spam mails, I use Spamihilator (freeware) for many years:

http://www.spamihilator.com/

I already tested SpamAssassin and I didn’t impress.

@Ryan Dube

Dube = Dubé in French???

I live in Montreal (Quebec), CANADA

Richard
My native language is French

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Richard – yes, Dubé in French…it’s nice to have someone recognize it instead of assuming it sounds like a joint…lol.

Much of my family only a few generations back came down to Maine from Canada – mostly Quebec! Whenever I’d go back with my dad it would sometimes have this strange feeling like going back home…although my generation lost the ability to speak French, unfortunately. :)

I’ll have to try out Spamihilator – I’ve heard a lot of people mention they like that one.

0 votes

Tim

Ryan, How do you know who your spam comes from though? Unless you have a unique address for each site, you don’t know why you’re getting spam. That’s the great thing about otherinbox.com. I can give a different email address to each site I register with, and I know who is selling my address to other mailing lists. So far only two sites have done this to me that I know of: this site and wishlist.com. I get about 1 spam email a day to my makeuseof address, 2 sometimes. So it’s not a lot, but there should be none – I’ve never used the email address anywhere but here.

And to be fair, I don’t know how the spammer got it. It’s possible MUO isn’t keeping their site secure and a spammer hacked in and stole their mailing list. Or perhaps an employee took it and decided to make a quick buck without MUO knowing. I don’t know how the spammers came to have my email address, but what I do know is that I’m getting spam sent to a mailbox that no one knows about except makeuseof.com. So one way or the other, it’s makeuseof.com‘s fault.

0 votes

Konrad Walsh

Well you are probably wrong Tim… Spammers don;t just get emails from List Sellers
They use complex algorithms to spam every possible variant of an email address. Its simple really,

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Richard – yes, Dubé in French…it’s nice to have someone recognize it instead of assuming it sounds like a joint…lol.

Much of my family only a few generations back came down to Maine from Canada – mostly Quebec! Whenever I’d go back with my dad it would sometimes have this strange feeling like going back home…although my generation lost the ability to speak French, unfortunately. :)

I’ll have to try out Spamihilator – I’ve heard a lot of people mention they like that one.

0 votes

Tim

Konrad,

Actually, I’m certainly not wrong.

According to your rational I should be getting spam in most, if not all, of my otherinbox.com accounts, but actually I only get it in two out of about twenty. In fact, I should get much, much more based on how otherinbox deals with email.

Any email address to @.otherinbox.com gets filed into a folder entitled for . You don’t create the folders ahead of time – anything that comes into @.otherinbox.com gets a folder created automatically. So if a spammer was auto generating spam to send to otherinbox.com accounts, it doesn’t matter what’s in front of the @ sign… they just have to get an user id figured out. But again, I’m only getting spam in two, very specific folders: makeuseof@.otherinbox.com and wishlist@.otherinbox.com. What are the odds a spammer is auto-generating email addresses and coming up with those names specifically, but not any other websites or even actual names in front of the @ sign? I don’t get any spam to john.doe@.otherinbox.com, or any other name…

It stands to reason a spammer has acquired the MUO mailing list. I don’t know *how* – whether it was intentional sold or simply stolen – but it’s been compromised.

Just for kicks, here’s the latest spam I got to my MUO address. I’d be curious if anyone else got the same. On March 3rd, I received a message like this:

From: smatt830@aol.com
Subject: Make the sweet lov e all night

It’s an old thread so I may not get any replies, but I figured we can try.