Scanning for Spam, Worms, and Viruses

Unwanted email is arguably the worst problem facing email administration today. Two types of unwanted email are common: spam and worms/viruses. Spam is unsolicited bulk email, usually commercial in nature. Most spam markets worthless body-enhancement products, questionable financial advice, and so on but is more of a nuisance than a threat—at least, if you ignore the substantial network bandwidth that spam consumes. Worms and viruses, on the other hand, are malicious computer code that, if executed on an unprotected computer, can spread and cause damage. Despite the fact that spam is quite different from worms or viruses in their intent, the two classes of junk email can be combated in similar ways.


The distinction between worms and viruses is a tricky one to define and depends on who you ask. Thus, I don’t try to distinguish the two types of menaces in this chapter, and hereafter I use the word worm to refer to both types of program. Sometimes I refer to “spam-fighting tools” or the like. Such tools can often be used to fight worms, as well, but such phrases omit this detail for brevity’s sake.

Dealing with spam and worms requires first knowing a bit about the types of approaches to dealing with the problem. One of the tools that can be used to directly combat spam and worms is Procmail, so I describe it shortly. Procmail can also be used to invoke other spam-fighting tools. SpamAssassin and Bogofilter are two such antispam tools. Finally, ...

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