Technology Advisor Blog

"Junk" eMail Settings in Microsoft Outlook

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/23/14 12:25 PM

Microsoft Outlook has a built in feature to process junk mail and send it to a "Junk" folder as a way to control Spam in your inbox.  This is a great feature if you only read mail in one place, but for most users these days, mail is read on multiple platforms - smart phone, tablet, laptop, browser, etc.  This is why we typically recommend filtering Spam in the "cloud" so the mail is filtered BEFORE it gets to your mailbox, and gets cleaned centrally before going to all your devices.

When spam is filtered in the cloud, it's important to turn off the Junk filter in Outlook so you don't wind up with two competing programs doing the work.  We often get calls about missing emails that are sometimes found in a Junk folder, or have been processed by forgotten "rules" in Outlook.   Some users are fine with checking in two locations for "false positives", but for most users, it just leads to confusion.  Keep it simple!

Junk email optionsTo control your Junk settings in Outlook, in the "Home" tab, select "Junk", and then choose "Junk E-mail Options".  

Junk Mail No FilteringThis will open the next window where you can control your settings.

When filtering is done in the cloud, we recommend turning off the local filter as shown.

You can see from all the options that this is a powerful tool, and if you have nothing else, and read mail only in one location, it's worth using.  However, we do strongly advise filtering in the cloud and then turning off this setting for most users.

Tags: eMail, spam, Microsoft Outlook

Navigating your Spam Filter "Quarantine"

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/15/14 9:54 AM

We've recently started upgrading our Spam filtering platform, so it's time to post some updated instructions.   These days Spam messages account for 80%-90% of all email sent worldwide, generating a lot of clutter and in some cases, security threats.  We strongly advise filtering mail before it gets to your mail server, and many of our clients have signed up for Spam filtering services with us.

The gist of this service is that all mail is filtered in the cloud before it gets to your mail server (either in the cloud or at your office).  This way, the spam is kept off your network, and cleaned up in a central location before getting your PC, iPad, smart phone... all the devices you may use to read mail.  Typically we set up the filter to send a summary report every day, typically scheduled for 8am (this can be scheduled for any time, and can be sent more than once a day).

eMail Quarantine AlertYou'll get an email summary in your inbox with a subject: "Messages quarantined since (previous day)".  In some cases, you'll see a "false positive" which is a message that is flagged as spam, but actually something you want delivered.  After a while, your filter will be "trained" to know what you want and what you don't want based on your preferences, but after an upgrade its important to check regularly at least at first.

Quarantine eMail ContentsWhen you open this message, you'll see a summary of the total number of messages quarantined and a list of all the messages including a "subject", the "Address" of where the email is coming from, a time stamp of when the message arrived, and some "Actions" you can take.  

Quarantine   Allowed ActionsScan through the  list to see if there are an messages you want to have delivered.  You have several allowed actions.  "View" lets you look at the message in more detail without actually sending it to your mail server. This is a good option when you're not sure what the messages is.  "Release Message" lets you release it to your inbox.  Finally, "Allow from Sender" lets you release it to your mailbox and put the sender on your "safe list".  This means that not only are you releasing the current message, but any future messages will automatically be allowed through.   This helps "train" the software so you'll get fewer and fewer "false positives" over time.

At the top of the Quarantine Summary email is a link to "Enter your Quarantine".  This is how you can get to your quarantine any time.  For example, you may be expecting an important email that didn't arrive and you want to check your spam filter in real time to see if there's anything important there.

Quarantine LoginIf you don't know your password, don't worry.  Just go to the login page and select "Forgot Password" to reset it.  Many people try their email password or Windows password and this is a separate password.   After you log in, you'll be able to see your up to date quarantine (so you don't have to wait until the next day's summary), and you can also proactively add "safe senders".  Under "User Options" you'll see "Allow List" and "Block List" where you can add addresses you want mail from or don't want mail from.  Also, you'll see an option to set your password to something you can remember.

We strongly advise using only ONE spam filter.  In Outlook, turn off your "Junk" filter as it is much more efficient to only check one location to manage spam.  If you're not running Exchange mail, the Outlook "Junk" settings don't help for spam on your smart phone or tablet, so this is why we recommend filtering in the cloud before the messages get to your mail server. Getting your mail organized will save you time so take a few moments to acquaint yourselft to the settings.  

Tags: eMail, spam filtering, quarantine, Reflexion

Latest Internet Explorer Security Threat - What you can do.

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/1/14 7:52 AM

The latest security vulnerability is all over the news.  Microsoft is working on a fix to address a flaw that could potentially allow hackers to gain remote access to systems. This flaw affects all versions of Intenet Explorer (about 55% of the browser market) and a patch is expected soon.  If you're still running Windows XP, support has ended and there will not be a security patch.

In the meanwhile, here's what you can do.  The first option is to use an alternate browser for a while, such as Firefox or Chrome. If you're doing general surfing, this is the best course of action for now.

Manage Add-OnsIf you need to run Internet Explorer (many applications rely on it), it is recommended that you disable Adobe Flash.  The security flaw requires Adobe Flash, so if its disabled, you'll be ok with this threat.  

Here is how to disable Adobe Flash.  In the upper right hand corner of Internet Explorer, select the "gear" icon, and then select "Manage add-ons" from the pull-down menu.  Selecting this will enable you to pick from a list of all the add-ons to your browser and then disable Adobe Flash.

DisableAdobeFlashSelect Adobe Flash from the list of "Toolbars and Extentions", and then press the "Disable" button.

Note that when Flash is disabled, some web features won't work, so this is a temporary work around.  

One of the questions we frequently hear is "why are Microsoft products so insecure"?  The technology underlying all the daily things you do on the web is very complex, and there will constantly be vulnerabilities.  None of us are willing to give up the web, but we will need to live with some risk.  Hackers will go where the market share is, and Microsoft dominates the market.  Microsoft also diligently issues patches (which are free) to update products as new vulnerabilities are discovered.

Keep in mind that if you're still running Windows XP, there are no more security patches for this "retired" operating system.  The next few months will be interesting as hackers may try to exploit this since about 25% of computers world wide are still running XP.  Stay tuned...

Tags: Internet Explorer, Security, Adobe Flash

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