For The Average Person: I’m Worried About Email Viruses and Spam. What Can I Do?

Here are a couple of suggestions, based on what I personally do:

1. Get an antivirus program installed on your computer if you don’t have one already. As far as I know, the best free one out there is found at http://www.avast.com/free-antivirus-download . Most of these programs run constantly and scan automatically at set times, too.

There are others but they can slow your computer down significantly without providing better protection. And while you can pay for that program and gain some better tools, it’s not necessary. The bigger buttons are always for the pay version, just look around the pages a bit and you’ll see links to the free version.

2. You might try reading your email in txt mode as opposed to html. That will prevent a number of spam problems but any fancy emails you get won’t be as pretty. It’s in your account preferences of your email program, so you can turn it back on if you want.

3. Most reliably, you can create filters or rules to sort your email. You can creates rules for any email that has “viagra” in its content to get sent to your trash folder automatically. You will have to add to the rules over time, because spammers make adjustments to try to sell you “viagara,” “V1agra” and so on. But that’s something to adjust when you keep getting the same ads over and over.

Finally, you (or your web host) might be able to turn on a feature called “Spam Assassin” which helps get rid of some of that stuff. Unfortunately, what happens is it can begin to interfere with normal email and we have to disable it again for awhile. I’ll turn it on for as long as I can.

Google Spam

There has been a lot of discussion about Google spam lately. And I just wrote about what Google should do to clean up their focus and make things better for users but they really do need to clean the spam out of search results, like they say they want to do.

You or I can do a search on almost anything and when we find a spam page, it’s pretty obvious. (And no, I’m not going to link to examples. This is a legit neighborhood.)

Here’s the thing. If you or I can tell at a glance that a page is probably spam, that means there are signal clues. Google’s algorithm can be adjusted to pick them out pretty easily. But it’s already supposed to do that.

How hard would it be to include a line in the Google search page for “Report Spam” next to each suggested page? Once a link got a few hundred or several thousand reports, then the web page gets taken out of the index or maybe bumped down to the bottom in the search results. Of course, there would have to be some verification procedures so competitors and spammers don’t abuse it but it can probably be done. Or maybe you’d prefer some other options if you don’t like mine or are unhappy with the simple instructions we get from Google about reporting spam. Of course, we could always just go back to the SearchWiki way of doing things and remove spam in our own search results.

Now, I wouldn’t want to see anyone’s page marked spam who isn’t trying to spam. So Google can do baby steps. Take domain holding pages like http://smmart.com/ out of the index. These holding pages add nothing to the search results. Then there are certain topics that are clearly filled with spam.

For me, searching Google for “levitra cialis viagra” brings up ten web pages plus an ad; eight of them are spam. The webmd.com and viagra.com sites both say these are all prescription drugs, so any site not requiring a prescription can be removed from the United States index, anyway. A quick call to a doctor could easily confirm this and Google could have a doctor or three on retainer to double check such things that get a large amount of spam.

If Google was really serious about removing spam, they could.