Spam Fighter’s Toolkit

Ralph Tegtmeier

Fighting the never ending tide of spam mail can turn into a very frustrating experience if you don’t know the real tricks of the trade. After all, there’s a whole lot more to it than to simply respond to a (usually bogus) FROM address with your complaint!

Here’s a fairly extensive overview of resources that will help you effectively combat unsolicited email, and show you the possibilities (and, alas, the limits!) of your endeavor.

General Resources
  • The Spamhaus Project features a database that tracks known Spam Gangs, Spam Support Services and the providers who keep organized spamming alive by knowingly hosting stealth spamming services on their networks. An extensive set of databases allows for tracking of established spam outfits, including statistics, etc.
  • Check out this list of established spambots.
  • Resources for header reading are listed at the Forum for Responsible and Ethical E-mail (beware, though – this does contain some broken links).
  • A number of spambot harrassment programs are listed here.
  • calls for spam boycots and offers lots of information about spam prevention legislation and more! Read their useful guide titled "How To Complain To The Spammer’s Provider" here.

Mail Forwarding Services
  • Protect your mail box with disposable email addresses by signing up with Sneakemail. This service forwards everything to your regular box without disclosing your real address. If you find your Sneakemail address is being abused, you can simply delete it. Plus, it’ll help you track down businesses that flog your address to third party marketers. Neat.
  • Free email forwarding that claims to sport the Net’s best anti-spam filters can be found at Basically, it works as a remote spam filter (that’s why they call themselves a "mail filtration service").
  • Spamex takes a similar approach, offering disposable email addresses as a measure to counter spam. It doesn’t bother with sophisticated spam filters, though – the minute your Spamex address receives spam, simply nuke it and get a new one. You can also fit their login box link into your Web browser’s links bar for easier access. Their slogan is noteworthy, too: "Because Sending You Email is a Privilege, Not a Right!"
  • One of the best known anti-spam forwarders is Spammotel (what a name!) which also offers a pretty sophisticated, award-winning plugin for your email client, which allows you to keep track of whom you have given which of your email addresses. This, of course, makes it dead easy to test Websites’ privacy policies. Moreover, it makes for a great tool to help you organize the email you actually do want to receive. Windows only.
  • Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC offers a commercial spam protection forwarding service.

Spam Filters
  • Webmasters who run their own mail server may be interested in The MAPS Relay Spam Stopper, a queryable DNS-based database of spam-relaying mail servers. You can configure your server to utilize their list if you want to refuse mail from these types of servers.
  • The same site offers the Realtime Blackhole List (RBL). This is a system that creates intentional network outages ("blackholes") for the purpose of limiting the transport of known-to-be-unwanted mass email. The RBL is a subscription-only system, which works in such a manner that no one is denied connectivity to a non-RBLSM-subscriber.

Reporting Spam
  • This spam complaint primer spells it all out, and offers a sample complaint that covers every important aspect of reporting spam to have spammers’ accounts and Websites terminated.
  • The all-time classic to report spam to is the not-for-profit Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC.
  • The Network Abuse Clearinghouse is a complaint service that will forward your spam complaints to the culprits flooding your mail box.
  • The MMF Hall of Humiliation takes the approach of ridicule to combat spammers. It features lots of parodies and spoofs of obnoxious unsolicited commercial emails. Still, it has a very serious background, and provides detailed information on fraud indictments as well as offering rudimentary legal analysis of spam scams.
  • This site offers monthly case studies reporting spam, and lists successes. You’ll see that while it’s quite an uphill battle, it can be done.

Reporting Tools
  • For abuse reporting tools, visit this site.
  • As with anything on the Net, there’s a mailing list available for people who are interested in software tools that detect and process unsolicited bulk email. Get it here.

Proactive Strategies
  • UXN Spam Combat offers a nice one-page form aggregating all the tools you need to solve the spam problem, ranging from NSlookup and Trace Routing, to Pings, and the decoding of obfuscated Web URLs. Very useful.
  • Uni-encoding the email addresses that are displayed on your Website is still a very efficient method to thwart email address harvesters or extractor bots. Learn more here.
  • This page offers you tools to "poison" the spambots by feeding them tons of invalid email addresses. While this admittedly places some strain on bandwidth and system resources, it’s also pretty easy to crash a spammer’s system this way – ah, sweet revenge!
  • Many spammers now offer their pathetic wares not via the Internet, but offline, preferably using toll free numbers. This article gives you tips on where and how to hit them hard – in their pockets!
  • Probably the most effective method of prevention is to block spammers and their harvester bots from your Website altogether. This tip shows you how.
  • The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE) is an international organization that promotes anti-spam legislation. They also publish the "True Tales of Spam", where you may see your own story featured some day if you submit it.
  • Fighting spam with procmail under Unix is discussed in detail here.
  • The Mega Zine SpamScript software generates tons of bogus email addresses on the fly to feed (and crash!) spambot systems.

    And if you can’t run CGI on their systems, here’s a remotely hosted version of the spam script.

  • Tips on how to lure in spambots to special, "poisoned" sections of your site while keeping away innocent visitors can be found here.

  • "Save Your Site from Spambots", by Steven Champeon. Techniques to Prevent Address Scraping. Read it here.
  • Spambot Fighting site.

  • As a comic aside, spam haikus (some more, some less witty) are featured by the truckload here.
  • Finally, yours truly’s "Spam Sonnet" is offered as an educational example of what horror spam can inflict on the sensitive artistic mind…