Michigan State University IT Services Support website

Spam Processing - TB11475

This item provides information on these topics:

Overview

Spam, aka junk e-mail, is a constant issue. Statistics indicate that over half of all e-mail received now is spam. As one measure to reduce the problem, MSU processes all incoming mail to determine whether a message is spam or possible spam.

When analysis indicates a message is known spam, it is rejected, with a notice provided to the sender. Suspected spam is tagged with *****SPAM***** prefixing the subject line of the message and delivered to the user's Inbox by default, or as specified in the user's preference settings.

How is spam processed at MSU?

All incoming messages to mail.msu.edu are processed for viruses and spam (junk e-mail) characteristics using a vended solution that evaluates each message coming in to mail.msu.edu. These tests look at different aspects of each message and give a score based on how that message stacked up to each item in the test. Additional points could be added, for instance, if the words "Lower Monthly Payment" is included in the text of the message. Depending on the nature of the message and the type of test, it will receive a point total for each test. If the points add up to five or greater, the message is tagged as spam in the subject line and delivered, or in the case of known spam, rejected with notice to the sender.

You can examine the number of points assigned to a message and see its spam score information by examining the headers of the message.

Spam handling preferences

In addition to tagging the subject line with "*****SPAM*****", the central service further processes suspected spam according to the user's preferences:

  • Mark as SPAM (Default behavior)
    After tagging the Subject line, the message is delivered to the user's Inbox for further handling. Users may want to use the filtering capabilities of the mail service (or of their e-mail client) to further sort the tagged messages. Consult the product help for more information on "filters" or "rules" for your e-mail client software.

  • Move to SPAM folder
    After tagging the Subject line, the message is placed in the user's SPAM folder on mail.msu.edu (server-side).

  • Send directly to trash
    After tagging the Subject line, the message is placed in the user's Trash folder on mail.msu.edu (server-side).

To access the spam processing preferences:

  1. Log in to mail.msu.edu
  2. Click on MSU Prefs.
  3. Scroll down to the SPAM Preferences.
  4. Click on the drop-down menu to select an action.
  5. Click the Save button.

Subsequent messages will be processed according to the selected preference.

The selected handling is applied to all messages regardless of whether the messages are checked by logging in to mail.msu.edu or by using a mail client such as Thunderbird or Outlook.

spam processing preferences

Creating and designating a Spam folder

Some users find that the Empty Spam icon does not work and does not empty the folder as expected. This may be due to a misnamed or mis-designated folder. Normally the folder named SPAM simply needs to be properly designated.

The recommended way to create the properly designated folder is to select the "Move to SPAM folder" handling preference (see above). Even if the user switches back to the default or other handling, the SPAM folder will remain in place. If the designation does not seem to be working:

  1. Open the Inbox.
  2. Click on the Options icon at the top of the page.
  3. The Options for Mail page displays. Click on Server and Folder Information (below the General Options heading).
  4. Click on the Spam folder dropdown menu.
  5. If the SPAM folder already exists, simply select its name from the Spam folder drop-down menu to designate the folder accordingly.
  6. Click the Save Options button.
  7. Log out. The next time you log in, mail.msu.edu will empty the contents of the designated folder whenever you click on the Empty Spam icon.

Keep in mind you will still have to use the spam processing and filtering tools of the service to sort messages into the spam folder.

Note: Proper function of the spam processing features and handing within the mail service will not occur correctly with any folder name or designation other than SPAM.

Add an Empty Spam icon to the menu

To add an Empty Spam icon to the menu:

  1. Open your Inbox.
  2. Click on the Options icon (Options for Mail ).
  3. When the Options for Mail page displays, click on Deleting and Moving Messages (under Message Options).
  4. Select the Display the "Empty Spam" link in the menubar?" option.
  5. Click Save Options.

Note: By default, this icon will trigger emptying the contents of a folder named Spam. Changing the designated folder will also change the folder emptied by clicking this icon.

If your Empty Spam icon does not work

Your spam folder is not properly designated. Refer to the pertinent section of this article for instructions on how to designate a spam folder.

Accept and Block Lists

The mail.msu.edu Accept/Block list function allows users to maintain Accept/Block lists that will bypass spam processing and either deliver corresponding messages to the inbox, or direct them to the mail.msu.edu trash (server-side) folder.

See TB14200 - Accept/Block lists for more information and instructions.

Filtering tagged messages

Users may want to use the filtering capabilities of the mail.msu.edu service(or of their e-mail client) to sort the tagged messages into a separate folder (typically to a SPAM or Junk folder) or into the trash. Consult the product help for more information on "filters" or "rules" for your e-mail client software.

Note: Users may set filters on either the central mail service or in their e-mail client software or both. Be advised, however, that filtering only occurs on the new central e-mail service when a user logs in to the central service via mail.msu.edu and checks their e-mail. E-mail that is auto-forwarded will be processed for spam, but is not filtered by the new e-mail service before forwarding.

What if I believe message(s) were erroneously rejected?

For individual e-mail addresses, simply add the address to your Accept list to bypass spam processing completely.

If this is insufficient, please contact IT Services Support at 517-432-6200.

Examining the headers to see the Spam score

Users may want to see why a message was tagged as spam or what the spam score is for a message. This information is found in the e-mail header lines. A sample header is shown below. The "X-Spam-Report" header line includes analysis details. The "X-Spam-Score:" line shows the points scored.

The example below shows headers for a message after it was analyzed for SPAM. The message is rated 2.14 for possible SPAM. Because it didn't make a 5 star rating, the subject line was not changed.

Sample Header (only pertinent headers shown in sample below)

X-Barracuda-Spam-Score: 2.14
X-Barracuda-Spam-Status: No, SCORE=2.14 using global scores of TAG_LEVEL=5.0 
QUARANTINE_LEVEL=1000.0 KILL_LEVEL=1000.0 tests=BSF_SC0_SA083, BSF_SC0_SA620b, 
MAILTO_TO_SPAM_ADDR, MISSING_MID
X-Barracuda-Spam-Report: 
	Rule breakdown below
	 pts rule name              description
	---- ---------------------- --------------------------------------------------
	0.14 MISSING_MID            Missing Message-Id: header
	0.00 MAILTO_TO_SPAM_ADDR    URI: Includes a link to a likely spammer email
	0.50 BSF_SC0_SA620b         Custom Rule SA620b
	1.50 BSF_SC0_SA083          Custom Rule SA083

Notice: All incoming messages to mail.msu.edu are analyzed for typical spam characteristics. See http://techbase.msu.edu/article.asp?id=11475 for additional information.

More specific information on finding and examining headers, including instructions on how to use header info to report abuse issues, can be found in the following articles:

Considerations for mail client users (IMAP and POP3)

While the IMAP protocol is recommended, some users prefer to set up their mail client software for POP3 access.

When using POP3, please be aware that using the capabilities referenced above results in processed messages being retained on the mail server. As a result, those messages are NOT received by the POP3 mail client, as outlined below:

  • Entries on the Blocked list will be directed to the Trash folder on the mail.msu.edu server (server-side Trash).
  • The spam processing setting Discard Spam moves marked messages to the user's server-side Trash folder.
  • The spam processing setting Filter to Spam Folder moves marked messages to the user's server-side SPAM folder.

As a result, to free up the mail space used, POP3 users must periodically log in using the mail.msu.edu web client and purge their server-side SPAM and Trash folders.

Another alternative is to use a mail client set for IMAP to access the SPAM and the Trash folders.

Note: To work properly for managing the SPAM and Trash contents, a mail client set to use IMAP must properly subscribe to (map) the server-side Trash and the SPAM folders.

Keywords for this Document

spam junk email

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Date Last Modified: 11/27/2013 3:24:15 PM

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