Junk mail filter should begin blocking spam on Monday

Sameera Kumar

Weinberg sophomore Amanda Wolfson discovered the dangers of spam mail the hard way when her computer was infected by a virus from a seemingly harmless e-mail.

“I thought I knew the person who was sending the mail to me, so I clicked on the link,” she said. “There was some file that kept opening over and over again and I couldn’t get it to stop.”

Luckily, Wolfson only downloaded a mild virus and was able to clean it out with anti-virus software. Still, she is tired of finding potentially dangerous junk mail in her inbox, especially on her Northwestern account, she said.

A new e-mail junk-protection filter may put Wolfson and other Webmail users at ease. On Oct. 3, everyone with an NU e-mail address will automatically get the new system, which will run all e-mail through a variety of complex filters, according to Information Technology officials.

NUIT will be offering information sessions on the Evanston and Chicago campuses this week to educate those who will be affected by the change to the new system.

The new e-mail defense system will not catch every single piece of junk mail, according to Wendy Woodward, director or Technology Support Services. She said NUIT does not want to be overzealous about catching junk mail and accidentally block something important.

After running the e-mail through hundreds of filters, the mail is ranked according to its junk score, or its probability of being junk, on a scale of 0 to 100.

Settings for students, alumni, faculty and staff differ. For undergraduates, e-mail with a low probability of being junk will be delivered to the inbox, while more questionable e-mail will be put into quarantine.

E-mail that is almost certainly junk will be deleted from the inbox and cannot be recovered. Users will receive a daily message notifying them of the quarantined e-mails and asking if they want to trash the messages or keep them.

A test group of faculty, staff, undergraduates, affiliates and alumni helped develop the settings, Woodward said.

“The system settings were determined through a combination of tester feedback, vendor recommendations, and the concern of inadvertently filtering something that would impact academic pursuit,” she said.

NUIT encourages users to use a filter included in an e-mail client to catch junk mail that might get through the system.

Roberto Sarmiento, head of the Transportation Library, said the new system is more efficient for users.

“This will definitely reduce the amount of mail you receive, especially if you use a portable e-mail device,” he said. “It’s going to make life a lot easier for us.”

Except for alumni, users will have the chance to opt out of the new defense system and return to the old e-mail configuration.

To facilitate a smooth transition to the new system, NUIT is holding demonstration sessions this week. Sessions on the Evanston campus are Wednesday at 1 and 2 p.m. in Swift Hall 107 and Friday at 2 and 3 p.m. in Harris Hall 107. A session on the Chicago campus will be held Thursday at 9:00 a.m. in Wieboldt Hall 721.

As for Wolfson, she said she is looking forward to the new protection.

“If it works it will be wonderful, and I will bow down at the feet at every NUIT employee,” she said.

Reach Sameera Kumar at [email protected]