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Volume 68, Issue 98 , Tuesday, February 18, 2003

News

IT targets e-mail spam, pop-ups

By Paul Saleeba
The Daily Cougar

Students and faculty will be receiving new tools to combat the often invasive and annoying "spam" messages and pop-up advertisements in e-mail.

The UH Division of Information Technology is implementing both server- and client-side measures to allow people to more easily filter out spam, which is essentially any unsolicited advertisement, from their incoming messages.

Their goal, as stated in a staff e-mail, is to "reduce as much of your electronic junk mail as possible without inadvertently blocking your legitimate mail."

From now on, the servers will automatically check e-mails that seem suspicious and tag the subject lines with a notice that a message is possibly spam. None of these messages will be blocked; they will just be marked if they seem suspicious to the serveris filters.

"(Only) notorious sources of spam will be blocked completely," Associate Vice President for Central Computing and Telecommunications Services Dennis Fouty said. Blocking will occur on a case-by-case basis so as not to interrupt campus activities. Otherwise, all mail will go to its intended recipient.

This particular plan was picked, Fouty said, because not everyone regards the same things as spam. The IT department is taking privacy rights issues very seriously while trying to keep the e-mail system usable for everyone, he said.

Using any general criteria to block e-mail could prevent pertinent messages from getting to students and researchers on campus who exchange information, as well as to casual users who might have personal communications going through their accounts.

For individual users on both the Web-based e-mail client and the telnet Pine client, filters will be added to automatically delete any system-tagged spam. Users will be able to set filters to scan for keywords in messages or subjects; anything with those keywords will automatically be sent to the trash folder.

But reducing spam is not the only priority. Computers will also be equipped with pop-up blockers on the Web browsers so students using the Internet will not be plagued by profuse advertisements.

Other issues that result in more spam for UH students are being investigated and corrected, including problems with the server that allows users to compile lists of UH studentsi e-mail addresses.

The IT department will be offering a free class on reducing spam, how to get rid of pop-ups automatically and habits that can make users a harder target for Internet advertisers and spammers. The class will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday in Room 107C of the Graduate School of Social Work Building.

More information on this and other courses offered by the UH Division of Information Technology can be found at www.uh.edu/ittraining; more on the anti-spam measures can be found at www.uh.edu/infotech/spam.
 

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