Friday, April 5, 2013 - 10:51am

 

If you’ve noticed an increase in spam to your inbox during the first week of April, you’re not alone. The spam spike is affecting e-mail users worldwide, and technology experts have yet to pinpoint the cause (though some suspect that it’s related to spammers striking back at anti-spam organizations).

To put the spam surge into perspective: For UI e-mail users who have their anti-spam settings at the medium level, UI spam filters rejected about 3,700 likely spam messages on March 26, but by April 1, the filters blocked 15,850 likely spam messages. The jump was even more significant for users with their spam settings a level lower, skyrocketing from about 9,060 on March 26 to 205,250 on April 1.

Globally, spam increased by 39% on April 1, according to the Cisco security network website.

Keeping an eye on it

Information Technology Services is monitoring the situation to see whether there’s a need to increase the sensitivity levels of the filters. The challenge in making adjustments is that spam and anti-spam efforts constantly evolve, and when filter sensitivity levels are raised to deflect the annoying unwanted messages, there’s also a greater risk of blocking e-mails people actually want.

For now, the plan is to leave the settings as they are and keep an eye on whether the spam spike dies down, holds steady, or continues to rise. If we do determine that a change is necessary, we will communicate this to the campus community. UI IT professionals are also sharing spam messages with the university’s anti-spam vendor; providing this information helps them optimize the filters.

What you can do about it

People whose e-mail addresses are widely publicized online have seen the greatest increase in spam in the past week. But any user who is frustrated by the uptick has the option to change their settings.

By default, all Hawkmail users are configured with “medium” anti-spam protection. This blocks messages with a spam probability rating of 90 percent or greater. One option is to change personal anti-spam settings to “high,” which will block any message with a spam probability of 70 percent or greater (but keep in mind that there is a chance it could block something you want to receive, and these messages are completely blocked – not just relegated to the junk mail folder in your inbox).

Instructions for changing your settings are available here. We are ready to assist if you need us; Help Desk staff can be reached at 319-384-4357 or its-helpdesk@uiowa.edu. And remember, do not click on links or open attachments that seem suspicious. For more details on dealing with spam, click here.