Email Safety and Security Tips
The State Bar provides this information in an effort to help members better understand email spam and viruses and how to manage their azbar.org email accounts. This information is meant to be helpful but not authoritative. You may wish to consult a professional for questions or solutions to your electronic needs.
Questions/Comments about this page
What the State Bar does about spam
The State Bar does not filter email on its azbar.org email service for members. Attorneys handle a variety of clients on a wide variety of subject matters. The Bar has no way of knowing what each individual attorney considers to be spam, and does not want to mistakenly block legitimate messages you wish to receive.
In an effort to help you identify possible spam, the Bar's email system does flag certain messages as "!SPAM!" rather than deleting them. Our server flags messages partly on content (does the message contain certain words?), and partly on origination (is it coming from a known source of spam?). However, to avoid deleting legitimate messages, the message is delivered: only the subject line is flagged with "!SPAM!" to let you know it could be a spam message.
How this can help you
With this configuration, you will still get the messages suspected of being spam. However, it provides you with one important tool: something specific to identify in your own computer's filter. You may choose to configure your computer's email system to move anything with "!Spam!" in the subject line to a separate folder for your later review.
Does the Bar sell my email address?
The email addresses of members are used by the State Bar and the Bar's Foundation. We do NOT sell or give away email address lists to anyone else.
What you can do about spam
While it is not possible to avoid spam completely, there are steps you can take to protect your Inbox as much as possible.
- Consider using a secondary email address for correspondence with the public. Spammers use automated tools to skim email addresses from web pages, chat rooms and online directories.
- Use a secondary address also for online purchases, because many online businesses sell their email lists to other companies.
Spam you already get
Requesting that you be removed from spam email lists is not always advisable; but there are some other ways to fight the problem.
- Report it. Forward unwanted or deceptive emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, where federal regulators are creating a spam database to go after the most egregious marketers.
- Don't EVER respond to spam. The reason spam is profitable is that people actually conduct commerce with spammers.
- Click "Remove Me" at your own risk. Experts discourage internet users from replying to unwanted emails with requests to be removed from future mailings, because that verifies that spam was sent to a valid address. Under the new CAN-SPAM law, marketers are required to honor such do-not-send requests after the first unsolicited advertisement. However, be aware that the Act is a federal law in the United States; many spammers are outside of the country, so this law will not protect you from foreign spammers.
AzbarMail webmail users: Using the azbar.org !SPAM! designation in Inbox rules:
There are different ways to handle suspect messages in your AzbarMail web account, but this is probably a good route:
- Create a separate folder to where you will move suspect messages. Click "Folders" above Inbox, and then choose a folder name in the following dialog. Hit "Create." This gives you a destination for the messages.
- Under the Options and Styles dropdown, choose Filters. You will most likely see a message saying "You have no processing filters on file." Click Add.
- Choose "Subject" from the "Select Field" dropdown, and then click "contains"; then type simply !SPAM! (be sure to include the exclamation points on either side of the word). Click the "Add Condition" button below.
- In the "Move message to this mailbox:" line, type the name of the folder you created. Click "Finish."
Outlook Express users: Using the azbar.org !SPAM! designation in Inbox rules
For most versions of Outlook and Outlook Express, you should be able to use the Rules Wizard under Tools (Called "Message Rules" in Outlook Express) to walk you through creating a rule to move messages with "!SPAM!" in the subject line. The idea is the same: create a Junk folder, then create a rule to send messages there that contain "!SPAM!" in the Subject line.
Other Spam-fighting Options
Please note that while the State Bar cannot and does not endorse specific products, there are some we are aware of that may be worth your investigation. There are other products and services that may be viable as well.
Some of the products and services listed below are free, others are not.
A definition of spam
The easiest definition of spam is unsolicited bulk email. Please note there is a difference between spam, spyware, and viruses, though the lines are blurring. Though the definitions vary, most people tend to refer to spam as any junk mail that is designed to conceal its true origin, or to make it difficult or impossible for you to get off of their mailing list.
Most reputable businesses that use email lists to contact you will be businesses with whom you've already transacted, and will give you an easy way to get off of their mailing list. The originating addresses will also generally be very clear. Whereas spammers often (though not always) use addresses like "email@example.com", email from businesses you might actually WANT to do business with will have addresses like "firstname.lastname@example.org," "email@example.com," "firstname.lastname@example.org," and so on.
What's the difference between blacklists and whitelists?
Blacklists are lists of spam sources or lists of words to filter out. Messages are evaluated against the blacklist criteria, and if they match, they are discarded. Though basic blacklists can be beneficial, they have two key weaknesses:
- The possibility of false positives. For instance, if obnoxiousISP.com is identified as a spam source by a blacklist, which then kills any messages from that Internet Service Provider (ISP), you will not get the spam that comes from that server... but you may also not get messages from legitimate senders who just happen to use that ISP as well.
- Spammers know about blacklists. As such, they attempt to hide not only the content of the messages, but whence they originate. This is why so much of the spam you may see deliberately misspells words, or inserts random nonsensical characters in the text.
Whitelists work on the opposite principle: only messages that are on a guest list of sorts can make it to your Inbox. The chief benefit of this approach is that while spammers are incredibly adept at dodging blacklists and their filtering criteria, whitelists ask only one thing of each message: "Are you on my list of approved senders?" If so, the message goes through. If not, the message gets quarantined in a separate folder for closer scrutiny. Whitelists are possibly a stronger defense overall than blacklists, but they too have some considerations:
- The possibility of missing a message you may actually want. These could include newsgroups, store ads, etc. for which you registered. If you are using a system that uses "challenge" messages, which send a confirmation message to a sender to make sure it's a real person, be aware that email lists cannot respond to them. It is necessary to stay on top of the messages in Quarantine to make sure none of them are things you need. This is significantly easier once your whitelist is fully built up with the people with whom you most often correspond.
- Spammers will often send spam to you with YOUR address in the "From" line. Though it is sometimes inconvenient, this can be prevented by removing your email address from the list of approved senders. Programs like Qurb (www.qurb.com) can check "friendly name" and actual email address together. If those two fields don't match, the message is quarantined.
Though whitelists are potentially more effective, they are not practical for everyone. If you deal mostly with a set group of people, with occasional to moderately frequent "others," a whitelisting approach works. If the email account you're trying to protect is used to correspond with many different people, or to answer questions from the public, whitelisting is not a practical approach.
What the State Bar does about viruses
The State Bar Web Services Team maintains virus protection on all its servers that contain information about or send information to members. The software is set to check for updates every two hours. This ensures that we will be getting definition updates for new virus threats as soon as they become available.
All messages, incoming AND outgoing, are checked for viruses before they are delivered. If a virus is present in a message, it will be stripped from the message before delivery. Although the message itself is not deleted, it will no longer be a threat to your system.
What you can do about viruses
The single best thing you can do to protect yourself against virus attacks is to have up-to-date antivirus software on your system, and make sure it is set to get updates automatically. Many of the new viruses can launch on your system by simply opening an email message. There are many vendors of antivirus products, including Symantec's Norton Antivirus, and McAfee. You may certainly wish to check others.
One other very important step is to suspect all messages with attachments that you receive, even those that purport to come from someone you know. Most of the newest viruses travel by compromised address books, so it is actually more likely that you'd receive an infected attachment coming from a name you recognize vs. a stranger. If you receive an attachment you weren't expecting, it is worth it to simply respond and ask the purported sender if they meant to send you whatever it was. If they did, you're probably safe. If they didn't, it's probably a virus.
The difference between spam and viruses
Though the lines are blurring, and though both can be damaging to your system or your privacy, spam and viruses are nevertheless different. Here are the primary ways:
- Viruses are malicious code designed solely to cause damage and confusion
- Spam is a marketing vehicle
- Viruses attack address books, and send copies of themselves to others with someone else's name
- Spammers often also try to make messages look like they're from a legitimate sender
When reporting spam or viruses, it's important to distinguish between the two. Spam is always trying to sell something, ultimately. Messages containing viruses try to get you to open an attachment for various reasons--to "validate" your email account, restore "disabled" access, to see a photo, etc.
Most antivirus programs, at the time of this writing, do not trap spam because spam messages technically aren't malicious code. But that is changing as the threats evolve, and as spammers have in some cases toyed with using viruses as a vehicle to get their information disseminated more easily.
The email I received appears to be from the State Bar, but is it real?
Many newer viruses are attached to an email that purports to be from the administration of a domain, such as: "Administrator of azbar.org," "The Cybertrails.com Team," etc. The false message usually says that there is something about your account that needs your attention - that it has been or will be deactivated, will be suspended, or something similar. Regardless of the message content, the goal of the text is always the same: to get you to open the attachment, which is the virus. Clicking on the attachment will deploy the virus if you are not protected by up-to-date antivirus software.
Never click on an attachment unless you are confident of its authenticity. If the State Bar does send an email message to azbar.org users, it will always contain a State Bar staff person's name and a phone number so you can call to verify the authenticity of the message. In addition, if you are unsure of the validity of an email from the State Bar, click on your "reply" button and send us a message. The State Bar will respond and confirm its validity. If the message is from a spammer, it is likely you will get no response or you will get an "undeliverable" message.
The difference between viruses and adware/spyware
As with viruses and spam, the lines are blurring between viruses and adware/spyware. But there is still a difference. Viruses are written simply to wreak havoc. Adware/spyware is written to find out information about you that will help them know what kinds of spam or popup ads you're likely to respond to. The problem with adware/spyware is that it is often so poorly coded that it can cause as many problems for your system as a virus can.
Ways to combat adware/spyware
There are several free programs available to help combat adware and spyware. It is not a bad idea to use both, since there are technical differences between adware and spyware.
Two of the most popular free programs are AdAware, and SpyBot Search & Destroy. Clicking those two names will take you to a download page on Download.com for each respective program. You can find other spyware-killing applications on that site, as well. Microsoft also has an anti-spyware application Microsoft Security Essentials that you can get directly from Microsoft. Again, you may wish to consult an independent professional to determine what's best for your needs.