Unlike many antispam products, Microsoft Outlook's junk email filter can't be trained by the user. Instead, it's updated once a month by Microsoft with a new set of heuristics to detect the current crop of spam.
The detection algorithms and heuristics are produced by analyzing the email that goes through the Hotmail service -- which gives Microsoft a pretty generous sample of spam to choose from!
Microsoft now also offers a junk email reporting tool that allows Microsoft Outlook users to mark and report spam. The reported email will in turn be used to help generate the next iteration of Microsoft Outlook's built-in spam filter.
The Microsoft Junk E-mail Reporting Tool version 1.1 installs into Microsoft Outlook like any other plug-in (you'll need to close Microsoft Outlook before setting it up). It then places a new icon in the Microsoft Outlook toolbar -- i.e., an email message with a red "forbidden" bar across it.
To report email as spam, simply select the message and click the button. When you do, you'll get a notice that the message in question will be forwarded to Microsoft for analysis. You'll also receive a confirmation email from FrontBridge (an email security company that Microsoft acquired back in 2005).
The forwarded email will have "[EHS SPAM PLUGIN]" prepended to the subject header. So if you have an outbound email filtering system, you could configure it to use this header (in conjunction with the target address, firstname.lastname@example.org) as a way to prevent email from being blocked.
Note that if you submit multiple times in a day, you'll still only receive one notice every 24 hours. This prevents overloading your inbox and it keeps Microsoft/FrontBridge from choking its own outbound bandwidth.
The only personal information that's submitted is your email address and IP address as a receiver of the email; this information is not used for anything except statistical analysis. The address used to send out the spam report is your default email address. But if you use a "spam-trap" email address, you can use that to forward the email in question.
The Microsoft Junk E-mail Reporting Tool can be used in conjunction with Microsoft's own junk email filter, a third-party spam filter like SpamBayes, or entirely on its own. Keep in mind though that this is not an actual spam filtering tool; it is simply a spam reporting mechanism.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of Windows Insight, a newsletter devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for all flavors of Windows users.
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