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Spam Emails via the LDGCB forwarders




Personally I like Spam and always keep an emergency tin in my camping kit, but I digress, because that's not the "Spam" we're talking about.

Some of you who are Tower Correspondents or Branch/Guild Officers may have been receiving a disproportionate amount of spam email via the LDGCB email forwarders. Certainly the Central Branch have been experiencing a significant problem in this respect. Some of this spam is just annoying, but sadly I have had reports that a lot of it is offensive in nature.

What can be done?

I have contacted the server manager for the Oxford Diocesan Guild of ringers. We host the LDGCB website on their server. Despite being the webmaster, I have very limited access to the server itself (like all webmasters). However there may be something that the server manager can do.

Is there anything the recipient can do?

Rather bizarrely the easiest thing to do involves not actually deleting the spam message (at least not straight away), but marking it as spam so that your mail program or service provider knows that it's spam (by all means move the message to a dedicated spam mailbox so it's out of the way). Nearly all mail programs (including Gmail) have a button or a mail option to identify any mail as spam. This trains spam filters to identify what is spam and what isn't and will help to filter out spam in the future.

You could install third party anti-spam software on your computer (like Mailwasher, which is free), which works with most mail programs like Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.

Is there anything the webmaster can do?

The only short term fix I have at the moment (and this is a bit drastic) is to delete your forwarder. The whole point of the forwarder is to protect your personal email address from being harvested by web-bots and other nasty bits of code that float about the internet. However someone is having a concerted attack on some the LDGCB forwarders, so deleting your forwarder is an option and it will protect you from spam being sent via the LDGCB forwarders.

Longer term I'm looking at things like a web based mail form protected by the CAPTCHA interface, so the only way that someone browsing the website could send a mail to a Tower Correspondent would be via the form. The CAPTCHA software (I'm sure you've met it) involves a test of some sort that a human can pass, but an automated system (like spammers use) would fail. This would remove the email forwarders altogether. I am talking with my fellow webmasters (isn't Facebook great!) to see if they have experienced similar problems and if so how they dealt with them. However setting something like this up will take time and I only have a limited amount of time I can dedicate to projects like this.

If the forwarder is deleted, what happens to the mail?

It depends. If I just simply delete the forwarder, it means I get it. Any email sent to an email address ending in "ldgcb.org.uk" gets sent to the server which attempts to route it to the correct address as defined by the email forwarders. If it can't find one, the email drops through to a default mailbox and gets sent to the webmaster.

However I can set the forwarder to bounce the email back (which will eventually cause the spam software to stop spamming it) or I can simply delete it. Either way the email (whether it is spam or not) gets lost forever.

Does this mean the webmaster could get innundated with spam instead?

Potentially, but I have got some really good spam filters of my own, so hopefully not. If I did just delete the forwarder, this means that I may receive genuine emails that are meant for a Tower Correspondent or Guild/Branch Officer. This has happened occasionally when someone hasn't typed the email address in correctly. Usually I can route the email to the correct person.

Jonathan Clark (Webmaster)