Responding to the Question: Can Email Be Fixed?

Written by Jeff on October 11, 2012

In PC Magazine post from John C. Dvorak titled, “Can Email Be Fixed?” the renowned technology journalist presented many of the problems that people have with email.

Of course he leads off with spam being the big problem, noting how it is:

“fatiguing to plow through the onslaught of spam and meaningless crap, just to unearth the occasional important message.”

Most of us who also agree with him that email is one of the most important methods of communication available find ourselves in complete agreement that spam is one of email’s biggest problems.

So in an effort to answer Mr. Dvorak here are some ways email can be fixed, at least when it comes to the spam part of it…

Get proactive with technology

If you are serious about stopping spam from infiltrating the inboxes at your company then you need to be serious about the technology you use to stop it. This doesn’t mean find the cheapest thing on the market and throw it on to your network while you hope for the best. It means following these steps:

  1. Get serious now. Don’t wait until spam becomes a problem before you address it. Work with management to put a plan in place right now.
  2. Investigate your options and rule out cost. Cost becomes the number one reason most security initiatives never take off. Don’t let it be the reason your users are flooded with spam. Before you consider costs, consider what it is your organization needs in order to best keep spam at bay. Once you have the different solutions that solve your problems you can start looking at costs.
  3. Configure your solution properly. Running a solution out of the box is often akin to running a car without any oil. Eventually, things are going to break down. Make sure your anti-spam solution can be configured to stop spam according to your needs and make sure that someone in your organization is capable of making sure this is done properly. Too often, the “best” anti-spam solutions require hours of training and certifications just to get working. Better to go with something that your team is comfortable with.

Educate users

User education is another important layer of your anti-spam initiative. Again, you can’t take the easy way out and expect real results. Telling users not to answer spam is not education.

An education initiative should properly teach users how to:

  • Identify spam
  • What to do when they find spam in their inbox
  • What to do to lessen the amount of spam sent to their inbox
  • Identify phishing attacks
  • What can happen if they fall victim to spam or phishing

Once your user base is educated in these areas, you will be surprised to see how the level of spam sent to your domain begins to drop.

Don’t rest on your laurels

One of the biggest problems organizations face when it comes to spam is believing that they have the problem licked. It’s great that you have the technology in place to filter spam at the gateway, and your education program helps keep users from falling victim to email borne threats, but what about the attacks that no one has seen yet? Those zero-day attacks that are looming on the horizon are more dangerous than anything out there currently because no one knows how to stop them or fix the damage they cause.

When it comes to fighting spam, you have to be ever vigilant. Never mind the different headlines that proclaim how spam is dead. These numbers come from the number of spam messages stopped by anti-spam solutions. It doesn’t take into consideration the number of spam messages that made it past the anti-spam filters.

Looking back at Mr. Dvorak’s question, I think the answer is pretty clear. Yes, email can be fixed; at least the spam part of it. But it is going to take a real effort on the part of anyone with an email address in order to really make a difference. Once people understand that spam can be fought and the battle can be won, we can address another of his problems with email because then, we won’t have to constantly change addresses when one account gets too much spam.

Comments

Martin Scowski October 12, 2012

These are filled with a lot of helpful and truly great tips. I definitely agree with every one of them. The article is right in saying that we should be proactive these days. All we’ve been doing is to simply react. You can just see that by people’s comments in the different blog posts! I also support 100 percent not only the education but the investment for various software. Man, our company scrimps on that, though they do give good training for everyone. But again without enough tools to help one prevent spam, all this education is somewhat useless.

Sharon October 14, 2012

I think e-mail can be fixed, but by the way the things are going, it will take a very long time. Like many, many years, especially if we cannot do anything to prevent spam or reduce security thefts such as password theft. There’s also the huge need for companies and even more literate or technology-efficient users to educate those that need it. One of the foremost reasons why e-mails sound ineffective is because a lot don’t know how to use them properly. Take, for example, those people who make use of very easy passwords or the ones who don’t know how to report spam.

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