Back in March, I was annoyed about viruses, worms, and other productions from the lowest level of hackerdom. But I realized that viruses don’t get me nearly as mad as spam does. What is it about spam that makes smoke come out of my ears?
To begin with, right now, I’d say that 90 percent of the mail I get is spam. I would reserve the first level of hell for all spammers just for the waste of time that spam imposes on me. But that’s not painful enough. I move all spammers to the second (and hotter) level because of how stupid the spam senders seem to think I am. The sales pitches from most spam could only be effective with people who would suffocate if you told them to close their mouths to cut down on the drool. Think of the consequences: With 90 percent of mail being spam, it’s as if most of my e-mail begins “Dear Idiot:”. Not that the spam senders are all that bright themselves. I’m currently getting e-mails both to improve my “male enhancements” and to “increase my breast size” (to quote two pieces of spam I received this morning). This is just poor customer research.
I am, however, willing to let one group of spammers stay at the first level. I’m willing to reserve the first level of hell for the spammers that try to sell me pornography. Those entrepreneurs are only suggesting that I have poor impulse control (and do express a certain naïve faith in my “physical abilities,” to quote another piece of spam).
I have more levels of hell reserved for these people. The next level in my spam hell is reserved for the people in Sierra Leone who believe that I’m not only an idiot but that I’m also a crook. If I only send them all of my banking information, I can share in the proceeds of a theft of several million dollars.
The lowest (and hottest) level of spam hell, I reserve for the people and organizations that fight spam control on the basis that “they’re serving their customers.” If that were true, these organizations would support flags on spam that would make it easily identifiable—and easily blocked. In fact, if there’s one distinguishing characteristic of most spam providers, it’s that they’re constantly looking for ways to bypass the blocks that I put in their way. No matter how clearly I indicate that I don’t want their mail, they look for ways to ensure that I have to download it. They do this, of course, by finding more and more interesting ways to lie about the contents of their e-mail: It’s not about Viagra, it’s about firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lately I’ve been using SpamBayes (http:// spambayes.sourceforge.net). The Outlook add-in version analyzes my mail, paying attention to what I call spam and what I call “acceptable mail.” Based on this analysis, SpamBayes analyzes incoming mail and assigns a likelihood of “spamness” to the e-mail. You can choose to assign e-mail with a high “spamness” to a separate mailbox. SpamBayes is doing a great job for me: Only 3-4 percent of the spam gets through. SpamBayes is also free (something that I like).
You may have noticed that while spam hasn’t turned up in past issues of Smart Access, security has been one of our recurring themes, along with Access 2003. With Access 2003, we’ve been providing one article per issue (more or less) to familiarize you with what’s new in the latest version of our favorite development tool.
The discussions of Access 2003 and security have come together on occasion because, quite frankly, what many developers will notice first about Access 2003 are the enhancements (?) to security. I add the question mark because I’ve often found that the restrictions implied by security are more annoying than helpful. I also don’t like it when my software doesn’t seem to trust me. Unfortunately for me, paying attention to security is now unavoidable.
Two of our regular contributors demonstrate how important security has become. In last month’s issue, Rick Dobson, in his article on code signing, pointed out that some companies will be considering migrating to Access 2003 just to gain access to its new security features. Contributing editor Garry Robinson spent the better part of last year writing a book on nothing but security in all versions of Access. This month’s issue includes a review of Garry’s book by another regular contributor, Danny Lesandrini. Garry has also provided an article that describes how to deal with and take advantage of Access 2003’s security. Armed with Rick’s article last month and Garry’s article this month, these two issues of Smart Access will tell you everything that you need to migrate successfully to Access 2003. Even if it doesn’t trust you.
Garry uses a tool called MailWasher, it just makes it easier to see your emails in the morning in text form.