Windows Mail Junk email filter – protecting you from spam and phishing emails

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The Windows Mail free email client on the Vista operating system replaces the popular Outlook Express software and comes with a great new feature absent from the latter – automated junk email filtering.

Taking a cue from online email services such as Gmail, Yahoo!Mail and Windows Live (formerly Hotmail), a “Junk E-mail” folder has been included by default on Windows Mail. This is in addition to the Inbox, Outbox, Sent Items, Deleted Items and Drafts folders. All emails suspected to be spam or of dubious nature are automatically moved to this folder.

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What is junk email?

Junk email is unsolicited email message that has arrived at your inbox. It’s something you never asked for and, in most cases; probably don’t have any need for. Windows Mail classifies junk email into spam and phishing emails.

Spam is harmless, though very annoying, and spam emails typically offer to sell goods or services.

Phishing is a different kind of nuisance in which the email message is formatted to trick the recipient into believing it is from a legitimate source such as a bank. The aim of phishers is to get hold of sensitive information such as the login details of your bank, Paypal, eBay account etc. Typically, phishing emails carry a link to a fraudulent web page/web site which, quite like the email message, is formatted to appear like the “real thing” and prompts you to enter your username and password. There are several different types of phishing emails and you can read more about these in the web development articles section of this web site.

How does an email account get spam and junk messages?

Spammer and junk email message senders employ various means to get hold of your email address. A popular method is sending out bots or automated programs that scan web pages for email addresses. As you would know, emails have a specific format – someone@somewhere.TLD. FYI, TLD or Third Level domain can be .com, .net. org, or whatever. So, in essence, it is not difficult to create a program that can recognize this format and grab hold of the email address. If you have ever placed your email on a web site or blog, subscribed to a newsletter on a shady web site, in all probabilities it would reach a spammer’s mailing list. And once it’s on one list, it would soon be shared and passed onto others.

There is a continual war between junk email senders and companies that develop filters to block such emails. Spammers and phishers also come up with new and innovative methods to make sure their foul emails reach your inbox. For example, when filters were successful in weeding out text messages by identifying certain keywords, spammers sent out the text as images!

Junk e-mail filer of Windows Mail

The automated junk email filtering in Windows Mail scans each incoming message and if it is identified as potential spam or phishing email is moved to the Junk e-mail folder. A pop-up informs you of this. You can also configure the junk email options, which is an added benefit.

The pop-up window of the junk email filter that informs about phishing email in Windows Mail Vista

Phishing email notification in Windows Mail

Phishing email identification and marking shield in Windows MailThe phishing filter also does a decent job. Any email message that Windows Mail thinks to be of suspicious nature or origin is marked out clearly with white cross on a red shield image. A warning is also displayed at the very top once you view the message.

Warning of a phishing email that the junk email filter catches

However, this automatic filtering by Windows Mail is far from perfect though it does a decent job. Tweaking the different options for junk message might yield better results. I also suggest scanning the Junk e-mail folder every now and then to get hold of legitimate emails that the program identified as spam. I also suppose with time the filter would learn and work more efficiently.

On the whole this is a good additional feature absent from Outlook Express and will be much appreciated by users especially those who have configured multiple email accounts in Windows Mail.

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