Technology Advisor Blog

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

Why did that Spam message get through my filter?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 3/7/13 8:43 AM

SpamOne of the services we provide to our clients is spam filtering.  The goal is to stop the spam BEFORE it gets to the mail server so it doesn't wind up on the users' desktop, laptop, iPad, smart phone, etc....  Each month when we do the reporting and roll up the numbers, it's amazing how much volume there is. Overall, around 80% of all email traffic is flagged as spam.  For some of our clients, this means blocking out tens of thousands of messages a month.  I looked at our own domain yesterday, and in February, over 10,000 messages were blocked or quarantined, including 348 emails containing viruses.  

One of the frustrating things is that with all the sophisticated algorithms involved with the spam security filters we put in place, some spam still gets through.  Just yesterday we heard from two clients who reported receiving a spam message that to any human reviewing the email, the disposition should be obvious, but to a computer scanning thousands of messages with respect to certain algorithms, a few get through.  In both cases, we saw "Breaking News" emails where for one user, the server logs showed that one email got through and seven were blocked in the past week, and for the other users, one got through, and 65 were blocked/quarantined.  In this case, we can see that the filters ARE working, but they are not 100%.  For a message with carefully crafted language, the initial emails typically get through, and it isn't until the volume of identical messages is detected that the rest get properly dispositioned as spam.

It's annoying for all of us that these spam messages just keep coming to us, but at least with good filtering, the vast majority are stopped.

Tags: eMail, email security, spam, spam filtering

How to "Deliver" Messages from Postini Quarantine

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 10/2/12 8:53 AM

In the first few weeks of using a spam filter, we know it's an inconvenience to have to approve senders when it would be obvious to anyone but a computer that it's mail that you want, but you'll be grateful to have the spam filter when you see all the clutter gone from your mailbox. Note that what appears in your quarantine is only the borderline spam content and that the rest of it is blocked in a "black hole". On average, across all the clients we actively manage, around 80% of all incoming mail is blocked or quarantined as spam!

Here's a question we get a lot:  "I delivered a message from my spam quarantine, but the next time the person sent a message to me, it wound up in my quarantine again.  Why?" 

There are actually two steps to the process:  delivering and approving.

Postini Quarantine eMailWhen you receive your daily Quarantine email (we typically program delivery for 8am daily), you'll see a list of emails that were quarantined in the last 24 hours.  This list can be quickly scanned for "false positives", that is, emails that were flagged as spam, but may be things that you want. 

Quarantine ListFrom this email, you can quickly hit "deliver" to get the messages you want sent to your "inbox" by simply hitting the "deliver" link.  When you do so, you'll see a web page pop up that will say "Your message has been delivered.  Close this window".  At this point, the message you selected should have been successfully delivered to your inbox.  However, if you notice that it's from a sender that regularly emails you (such as an enewsletter, an important customer, a sales promotion, etc), you'll want to take an extra step to "approve" the sender so their mail always gets through.  For example, I definitely always want to know when Lands End is having a sale.  Their messages are commercial bulk mail, which is considered "spam", but since I always want to receive the mail, I need to "approve" the sender. 

MessageCenterLogInTo "approve" a sender and not have to click "deliver" every time they send a message, click on the "Message Center" link directly above "Date" on our list of quarantined spam.  This will directly you to a screen to log in to the message center.  Your "Log in Address" is simply your email address.  The password is the password originally assigned in your welcome message when the account was created (not the same as your email password), but don't worry if you don't know what it is.  Simply type anything into the Password box, and then you'll see a message "Invalid Login.  Please try again" and you'll also see a link "forgot your password?" directly underneath.  If you click on this, you'll be directed to a page to reset your password.  In our experience, people often don't log into the message center frequently, and they often forget their passwords, so this is a question that comes up often.  Don't worry, it's easy to correct.

After you're logged into the message center, you'll see a list of all your quarantined spam messages, but unlike your quarantine email, you'll also have a lot more functionality available through several links.MessageCenter

When you're logged into the message center, you can select one message on the left and hit "Deliver" (button on the right), or you can select multiple messages and hit the "Deliver Selected" above all the "Deliver" buttons.

After the message is delivered, you'll have the option to "Approve Selected Senders" on the next screen:MessagesDeliveredScreen

If you want to pre-approve senders and not wait until messages wind up in quarantine, another way to approve senders is to go to the "My Settings" link.  Here, you'll have options to approve senders, block senders, and change your password:MySettings

As always, if you have questions or need help, let us know! 

Tags: eMail, postini, spam filtering, approve sender

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