- Paperback: 207 pages
- Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (30 July 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0596007078
- ISBN-13: 978-0596007072
- Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.7 x 23.3 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,355,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
SpamAssassin Paperback – 30 Jul 2004
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The Open Source Solution to SPAM
From the Publisher
Sys admins can field scores of complaints and spend months testing software suites that turn out to be too aggressive, too passive, or too complicated to setup only to discover that SpamAssassin (SA), the leading open source spam-fighting tool, is free, flexible, powerful, highly-regarded, and remarkably effective. The drawback? Until now, it was SpamAssassin's lack of published documentation. This clear, concise new guide provides the expertise you need to take back your inbox.See all Product description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
But the problem with the book is that it never seriously analyses the many flaws of SA. The most glaring is how it used blacklists. It only applies these against various header fields. Yet it is well known that spammers forge arbitrary sender addresses. Which greatly reduces the efficacy of the blacklist.
Also, the book devotes attention to how SA uses Bayesians. It says how you need a corpus of spam and one of non-spam, to train the Bayesian. Yet this has proved to be a severe constraint on actual usage. The book never says how these corpuses are to be found. In practice, this is done manually. Even worse, the book does not point out that spammers can and are poisoning Bayesians, with innocuous non-sequitur words in their messages. This means that a Bayesian must be continually retrained on new corpuses, that have been manually gathered. Very labour intensive. Few users are willing and able to do so.
Although the author has a section on pop mail configuration, I would like to see more client configuration examples such as outlook express or Novell's evolution/Ximian, or kmail. This is because not everybody runs email server at home. Nonetheless, this is a great book for those who want to set up their own spam mail filters and get rid of those annoying junk mail. Additionally, the author provides a very detailed list of resources.
The reasons for SpamAssassin's popularity include its high level of customizability, the ability to change the rules and the weights assigned to those rules, automatically report spam to clearinghouses, ability to interface with other resources on the internet including DNS blacklists, ability to create a whitelist, and the ability to work with a wide variety of mail systems including sendmail, Postfix, qmail, and Exim. One of the really nice features is the ability for the system to automatically add a person to the whitelist if you send an outgoing email to that person.
Of course all of this requires an understanding of how SpamAssassin works and how to configure and tweak it to get it to do what you want. That is where this book comes in. The author has done an excellent job of explaining not only the concepts but also the details of how SpamAssassin works and how to tweak it to work best in your environment. This is easily one of the most clearly written and understandable books on configuring the software that I have read. SpamAssassin is highly recommended for anyone on a Unix-like system who is considering using the program as a spam control solution.
It took some time to figure out how to configure it best for my needs but my spam is down over 90% with no false positives. Don't expect the author to spoon feed you what is best for your system, but he gives you the information to design one that works for you.
I don't think there really is a good solution for spam right now. Blacklists don't work, Bayesian filters don't work - nothing works well enough to stop spam entirely.
Still, Spamassassin is useful, and because it is configurable (and open source), you at least have complete control. That assumes, of course, that you understand how it works. That's the reason to buy a book like this, but I was a bit disappointed in that area. I'm not sure yet whether the fault is Spamassassin - maybe it's just not as configurable as it should be - or this book just not explaining things very well.
For example, I note that an awful lot of the spam I get is from certain IP blocks. I don't want to block out large ranges arbitrarily, but I thought it might be interesting to increase the Spamassassin score if the sender was in one of those ranges.
Well, if there is a way to do that, I still haven't figured it out. It could be me - maybe I just haven't read things carefully enough - but I didn't feel that I understood Spamassassin after reading this. Maybe this needs to be a bigger book - only about 100 pages are devoted to configuration and modifying rules, the rest is installation advice.
On the other hand, there's nothing else out there, and this isn't totally without value. If you are using Spamassassin, you may want to pick this up - it could be a long wait for anything better.
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