Anti Spam

PreciseMail


A commercial anti-spam product is available for Waisman email users. It is called PreciseMail Anti-Spam Gateway from Process Software or simply PreciseMail. 

Before using this anti-spam filter, you need to be aware of what it does. Therefore, it is not enabled for your Waisman e-mail unless you specifically opt-in to use it. Please be aware of these five points:

  • No anti-spam product is going to catch every spam message.
  • When you first begin to use an anti-spam product, there will be messages that you want to receive that are mistaken for spam. These are known as false positives.
  • If you communicate by email with an outside organization that sends you important messages (e.g. a granting agency), you must put their address in your list of allowed senders to guarantee you see their messages without having to search through your quantaine (which could get very large). Please do not add entire domains to your allow list (e.g *@hotmail.com) or the effectiveness of spam detection will be reduced. Mail from any campus address gets a boost and it will never get quarantined so there is no need to add *@waisman.wisc.edu or *@wisc.edu to your allow list. Doing so will greatly increase your spam.
  • Just because a message is from another Waisman or campus email address does not guarantee it will avoid spam checking and possibly end up in your quarantine. Some senders may choose to use off campus mail systems such as yahoo, gmail, etc. but the message appears to be from a waisman or campus address because they set their return address to that address. In this case the message actually comes from an outside provider and will be checked for spam which means it could end up in your quarantine. You may not realize this unless you inspect the headers of the message.
  • Do not be tempted to add your own address to your allow list. Doing so will guarantee you'll get lot's of spam. Remember, spam nearly always has a forged from or return path address and very often it is your own address. Also use caution when adding entire domains to your allow list. Adding *@wisc.edu would be a bad idea and would cripple the effectiveness of the spam filter, resulting in more spam.

You can of course instruct PreciseMail that a message it has flagged as spam is really not spam and you wish to have future messages from this sender not treated as spam. Eventually, you will have a list of senders who's messages should not be flagged as spam and the number of false positives will be very low. False positives are typically newsletters or other messages from organizations (vendors, groups, etc.) you receive on a periodic basis that contain a links to web pages or marketing terms.

We already have a list of senders that will not be checked for spam because we know email from them is of general interest to many people at the center. These include email from any campus mail system, The State of Wisconsin, Community of Science and popular vendors (Dell, Orbitz and most major airlines). You can suggest additional senders be added to this center wide list of allowed senders when using PreciseMail.

Please keep in mind that the sender's From: address has absolutely nothing to do with where the message actually originates from. Spammer's take advantage of this to make you think a message came from someone on campus. This also means that mail from a sender with a campus address doesn't always mean it came from a campus email system if the sender has chosen to use an outside email provider such as yahoo or gmail. Such messages will be checked for spam an could end up in your quarantine.

Those are the basics. You really should know a bit about how it works before you opt-in to use it. Each person has a "quarantine" where messages that are likely to be spam will be kept for 28 days. This means when a message is received that gets flagged as spam, you won't receive it as an e-mail - it will be in the quarantine for 28 days instead. You have 28 days to view and/or release it from the quarantine or it gets discarded. So you will need to view the messages in the quarantine to see if there are any you really want - false positives. When first starting to use PreciseMail, you'll want to look in the quarantine often to make a message you really wanted wasn't marked as spam. After you tell PreciseMail a quarantined message is not really spam, it won't bother to check future messages from that sender. Soon, you will have a good list of allowed senders and won't need to check the quarantine at all except when you don't receive a message you were expecting.

line

How to use it

PreciseMail has an easy to use web interface for:

  • viewing, releasing and deleting messages in the quarantine.
  • changing your list of allowed and blocked senders (allow and block lists)
  • setting other personal preferences.

To use the web interface you need to enter your Waisman username and password to login. After you enter a valid username and password to login, the start page appears with a list of choices. One of these is Set Your Preferences. You follow (click on) this link to opt-in. After you set opt-in you need to click the Update Basic Preferences button to save the setting. After the setting is saved, future e-mail to you will then be checked for spam by PreciseMail. To verify this, watch for additional headers that begin with X-PMAS on new e-mail messages.

To try the web interface and/or opt-in, visit:      https://www.waisman.wisc.edu/pmas/

If you have other e-mail addresses forwarded to your waisman address (a @wisc.edu address for example) you can request an alias for the other addresses so you will receive a single spam report for all your e-mail. Contact Carl Karcher to request an alias for other addresses you might have that are forwarded to your waisman address.

line

How it works

  • Incoming e-mail messages sent to you are inspected for known spamming techniques using a set of rules. The rules include various tests that look for certain words, phases and punctuation within the each message and check if the message headers are valid. Many different tests are performed on each message. These rules are automatically updated to keep up with current spamming techniques as they are discovered.
  • Each test performed on a message has a score assigned to it. This score is known as the spamicity. Each test the message fails increases the score for the message and also adds a header to the message. If the total score from all the failed tests is 5.0 or more but less than 50, the message is considered spam and it will get delivered to your quarantine instead of your mailbox. If the message has a spam score of more than 50, it's almost certainly spam and will be in your discard area. You can change these values that trigger quarantining or discarding by following "Set Your Preferences" then "Spam Thresholds" on the web interface just after you logon.
  • Once per day at 7AM you will receive a spam report via e-mail from PreciseMail of messages that were quarantined since 7AM the previous day. The report contains the sender's address and subject of messages that were quarantined during the previous 24 hour period. Keep in mind this report ends at 7AM on the current day. Other messages can appear in the quarantine later in the day and those will appear in tomorrow's spam report. Please note that this report does not contain messages with scores over 50 that are in your discard area since it will be rare that a message you want is there.
  • If you notice a message in the quarantine report that you would like to see, you can request that message be delivered to you by clicking on it or using the web interface. You may also allowlist the sender's address so a future message from that sender won't get quarantined again. Instructions are in the spam report you will receive. You have 28 days to request a message be retrieved from quarantine or discard, after that it's discarded for good. Keep in mind if you use the web interface to view the quarantine regularly you can probably ignore the daily quarantine report that's e-mailed to you. You can also tell precisemail not to e-mail you the report from the "Set Your Preferences" link on the web interface.

Remember, if you notice mail getting quarantined from a sender that may be of interest to others (research journals for example), you can use the web interface to send to administrator to have future messages from the same sender be considered for inclusion in a center wide list of allowed senders.

The User's Guide for the product can be viewed from the vendor's web site at:

For questions or problems with the PreciseMail service please contact Carl Karcher