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Any way to combat spam in Outlook Web App?
October 12, 2012 4:38 AM   Subscribe

How can a regular low-privilege user of Outlook Web App stop the incoming flood of spam?

An older relative is accessing their official email account through Outlook Web App. Said relative is a somewhat prominent public figure so the email is published all over the internet. Of course, this means they receive buttloads of spam - and they're not internet-savvy enough to deal with that.

The mail server probably has only the basic anti-spam filter installed, because the standard "penis/viagra/rolex" mails don't get through. Instead, the more sophisticated (and spellchecked) spam mails get through: well-written variants on Nigerian scams, offers for work, "admin" warnings to reset your password at a certain URL etc. The problem is that the relative is not always able to recognize spam for what it is (especially when they get mails about earning thousands in two weeks while some of their own family members are unemployed and struggling).

We've tried asking the mail server admins to improve the anti-spam filter, but they're refusing to do anything (it's a very bureaucratic institution and the relative is not high enough). We've tried setting up an alternative Gmail account for the relative and forwarding the messages using a mail rule in OWA, hoping that Gmail's filters will stop the spam - but as the emails are forwarded, Gmail regards them as more valuable than the usual direct emails, so it doesn't trash them. (Besides, the relative is still very active at their institution and wouldn't want to start using an unaffiliated email account.)

So far, our solution is for me to log into relative's email a couple of times a day and delete all the spam. This sort-of-works, but of course, I'd prefer not to have this kind of obligation.

Is there any way to somehow add "client-side" spam filtering in OWA? Any other ideas how to lessen the spam load?
posted by gakiko to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Not that I know of. I think you are going to need a non technological solution. If this person's work email address is plastered all over the internet for a legit reason, then their employer ought to provide a person to go in and filter out the badness. If their email is not necessary for their position, then it might be time to get rid of that account and start a new one.
posted by gjc at 6:32 AM on October 12, 2012


I've used SpamBayes with good results in the past but there are many client-side spam filters for Outlook.
posted by kindall at 6:33 AM on October 12, 2012


Outlook has decent client-side filtering, but I think in OWA you can't adjust the severity of the spam filter (it defaults to low). Can she connect via Outlook? If so, it can be done there. Just set it to medium or high.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:16 AM on October 12, 2012


I mainly use Outlook for my work email, but occasionally use OWA on the road. OWA can sync folders with Outlook, so if Outlook puts some mail in the Junk folder (using a client side filter), it will end up in the Junk folder on OWA. Can you sync your relative's email to an Outlook client, and let it run in the background on a computer and do the filtering (even if your relative doesn't actually use the desktop app)?

I guess it's similar to what you are doing now, except instead of a human filter every few days, there is a computer filter a few times a day. Some spam will still get through if your relative checks OWA before the mail has a chance to download to Outlook (I've definitely seen this happen when I'm using both). Is talking to the IT dept out of the question? If your relative is somewhat prominent at the institution they are at, they may have some pull in getting better spam filtering on their account at the server level.
posted by bluefly at 7:34 AM on October 12, 2012


Is OWA the only way to get a connection to the work mailbox? If POP3 is also available, you can have Gmail pull stuff rather than making OWA push it.

If I recall correctly, one of the things that really irritated me about OWA when I last had occasion to deal with it was that its rule-based forwarding didn't do proper mail redirection, instead simulating a manual forward complete with prepending Fw: to the Subject line and replacing the sender address with that of the OWA account. That would indeed totally screw any spam filter. But if you can have Gmail pull mails via POP3 instead, it will get access to them in an unmunged state and its spam filter should work just fine.

If you are going to use Gmail, you can even make it look nice again.
posted by flabdablet at 9:45 AM on October 12, 2012


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