How Good is Your Email Spam Filter?

Making a successful business requires more than a rockstar team and a collection of top-quality services. It also needs the proper protection to function. This extends to emails as well as they are often overlooked despite the fact they are the more likely targets for hackers to get into companies’ systems.

Out of the various methods, one of the more prominent ones is spam. Many email platforms come with a spam filter built in, however that alone isn’t always equipped to handle all spam. This is on top of not all being able to defend sensitive data.

Here is everything that’s needed to know about spam filtering and picking the best one.

Spam Filters Defined

It’s a program that always comes with any email software received. It’s used to detect and sort both unwanted and untrustworthy emails. The idea is these systems will block any risky messages or bad actors from entering the main inbox and clogging it up. Not only does it filter space, but it curbs the number of phishing attacks, malware, and ransomware from entering networks.

Even though spam filters are necessary for the security of a business, it is important to note these systems are all reactive in nature. This is a big component in today’s cybersecurity as reactive measures aren’t always the best for solutions. The more proactive a system can be, the better.

With spam filters being reactive, they are still exploitable, though still important for the reasons above as people aim for a more proactive cybersecurity system overall.

How Does It Work?

Overall, spam filters work like a firewall in that it faces all oncoming data and sorts it accordingly. In the case of spam filters, it distributes emails to spam or inbox or other tabs (i.e. Gmail has Promotion and Social tabs). Spam filters have specifications for what constitutes a spam email including certain keywords, encryption, or other triggers that can suggest the email is threatening or malicious.

Early versions of the spam filter focused on keywords based on a given list of keywords or phrases that cybercriminals use. Today, it’s more sophisticated, though largely the same in many regards. As a result, some important emails can still be sent into the spam folder – hence why some legitimate companies warn customers to check their spam folder for emails from them.

Recent iterations of spam filters have broadened the scope of these filters, offering a more heuristic approach to inbox filtering. These new filters use behavioural analytics and make predictions on potential threats – even when there aren’t any known triggers in emails.

These don’t represent the whole spam filter market yet, but some of the common filters are:

  • Content filters – these review wording of a given email and determine whether it’s safe or not.
  • Header filters – these check the header of an email – and IP address – to see if the email is coming from a legitimate source.
  • Blocklist filters – these block emails sent by senders who have been identified as untrustworthy
  • Rule-Based filters – these have pre-determined rules for secure emails and measures all emails based on those rules.

Which Email Software Has Built In Spam Filters?

A lot of professional-grade – and free – online email services will have spam filtering. The important thing to note is not all systems are created equal. A sign of a good spam filter is when it can do the following:

  • Scan inbound and outbound mail to account for any internal compromises
  • Scan for any sign of malware, ransomware, and phishing
  • Ensure that valid emails get sent and received
  • Properly and safely store information
  • Offers scalable solutions at affordable rates

Based on those specifications, companies can compare their systems with that criteria. Beyond that, here are some important things to note about existing email providers.

  • Gmail – Out of every email provider out there, this one is believed to be the best spam filter that’s publicly hosted. Gmail already has a blocklist based on Gmail’s own database. It also has a link filter which is then backed up by an in-house machine learning program designed to help Google be more proactive to security in the future.
  • Outlook – Automatically, Outlook’s Junk Folder has no automatic filtering. Whether it’s on its own or part of Microsoft 365 suite, it’s important to update the inbox’s Junk Folder to a more stringent level. Also disable “trust my contacts” from the Safe Senders tab as contacts could get hacked. These two things dramatically improve junk folder success rate.
  • Yahoo – The SpamGuard system is a basic spam filter. It is necessary of course, but leaving it “as is” isn’t wise. Thankfully this program does have customizable choices that are wise to enable for better spam filter.

Bring The Spam Filter Up To Speed

Instead of looking for a new email service provider, it’s wise to investigate what can be done on the existing email provider. This is a much easier way than having to email every single person in contacts of any email address changes.

For those more serious about security, it’s worth checking for advanced filters or simply being more proactive with regards to emails. Simply practicing not clicking on links and being cautious with cybersecurity can go a long way.

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