Reducing spam, viruses, adware and spyware


  • Spam is unsolicited email.
  • A virus is a computer program that usually arrives with your email as an attachment, AND, which you have inadvertently opened, and by so doing, causing it to infect your machine.
  • Adware is software that delivers adverts to your computer, but may be required by some software to run.
  • Spyware is software that sends information from your computer to another, for example, for advertising purposes.


  1. I have the following software installed:
    • Grisoft’s Anti-Virus Software, which is available as a free version (AVG Free Edition). It can be scheduled to check your entire system for viruses, and, can be integrated with your email software (I use Eudora) to automatically check for viruses. Unfortunately the integration with Eudora was causing the contents of the occasional message to be lost, so this aspect of the AVG was disabled (and Zone Alarm used instead). Note: It is vital to ensure that your Virus database file is updated regularly. This is file of virus “fingerprints” which are used to check for known viruses. If a new virus is discovered today, and it’s not in the virus database, it might get through!
    • Spybot, which is free, and looks for unwanted adware and spyware, and optionally removes it. You just have to be careful not remove adware which is required by some software, such as that used to run the free version of Eudora.
    • Zone Alarm, which is available as free version, and prevents (a) unauthorised access to your PC from the Internet, and, (b) if you should get adware or spyware on your PC, will stop it accessing it’s home server over the Internet. The paid version of Zone Alarm also includes anti-virus software which integrates well with Eudora.
  2. I never open email attachments unless (a) I am expecting them (b) the email message references the attachment (c) I know that type of file I am receiving. For example, graphic files such as .jpg and .gif, and documents such as .wp, .doc, .txt and .rtf. Never open email with the following file name extensions: .pif, scr (screen savers), .exe, .com
  3. I reduce the amount of spam I receive by not publicising my email address. I try not to place by email address on Web sites where it might be seen by spam robots, such as on message boards. Where my email address appears on my own Web site, it is either in the form of a graphic image (spam robots just see an image, and not the text), or, I hide the email address using HTML entities and comments. For example:
    • john [at] wherever [dot] com becomes:
    • An HTML entity converter can be found here.

Update: 19 Jul 2010

  • I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Zone Alarm now. Windows Vista and Windows 7 both include adequate firewall protection. And I was experiencing occasional problems with Zone Alarm. Today I’d suggest the Comodo Personal firwall. I can also recommend Matou “Proactive Security Challenge” which provides a good comparison of firewall software.
  • A better way to hide your email address is using Ramkin’s email encoder, which converts an email address into a Javascript snippet. And Drupal users can use the “SpamSpan filter” module, which automatically obfuscates an email address.