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Viruses and Spam

713-525-6900
ithelpdesk@stthom.edu

Viruses and Spam
What is “spam?'

Spam is the name often used to refer to unsolicited commercial email.

What is “spam flagging?"

Spam flagging is a process for identifying messages likely to be spam and marking them as such.

What email will be scanned?

All incoming email for all faculty, staff and students with a stthom.edu address will be scanned, and all email whose total score is equal to or greater than the threshold value will be flagged as spam. Only email originating from outside UST’s email server will be scanned.

What email will not be scanned?

Internal email (anything from one stthom.edu address to another stthom.edu address) will not be scanned.

How does it work?

The spam flagging software scans incoming messages and applies an extensive set of tests to identify messages as potential spam. Rather than filtering incoming email, the server flags suspected spam messages so the recipients can determine whether they want to keep them or delete them. The tests used to identify messages as potential spam include message formatting rules as well as message content rules.

What does spam flagging not do?

Spam scanning and flagging will not filter or delete email messages that appear to be spam.

Are there risks?

The problems with flagging suspected spam are the same problems that exist with any other way of identifying spam. The main problems are:

1) False Positives—Some legitimate messages may be flagged as spam.
2) False Negatives—Some spam messages will not be flagged.

Why do we need this?

Spam is a drain on the time effort and patience of faculty, staff and students. It can create an unfriendly work environment and it also consumes network bandwidth and computing resources. Although unsolicited bulk email has existed for years, over the past several months, it has become more pervasive, more offensive and more expensive to deal with it.

What do I need to do to activate it?

There is nothing you need to do. It is automatic.

Can I opt out?

No.

Will it take longer for me to receive my email?

Not noticeably. The scanning and flagging of incoming messages is actually performed by a separate server to prevent additional load on the email server.

Will it take longer for me to send my email?

No. Since scanning is only done on incoming messages, it will not affect your sending time.

Will this cause the email servers to run slower?

No. The scanning and flagging is actually performed by a separate server to prevent slowdowns on the email server.

How will I know if my email has been flagged? What does a scanned message that was flagged look like?

The message will be flagged as spam by inserting the characters “*****SPAM*****” at the beginning of the subject line in front of the original subject text. For example:
Subject: Get prescription drugs for less! becomes Subject: *****SPAM***** Get prescription drugs for less!

What do I do with my email after it has been flagged?

Because it is flagged as potential spam does not mean it is spam. If it is flagged with “*****SPAM*****” in the subject line, you may still want to make sure it is not a legitimate message before deleting it.

To determine if it is a legitimate message, look at the sender’s address and the subject text. If you use a preview or reading pane, you may be able to view part of the message without opening it. If you cannot tell from that, you may need to open the message.

Messages can also be filtered based on flagging using features built in to many email client programs. For more information, see the message filtering documentation.

What do I do with email that is spam but was not flagged?

If you are sure it is a message you do not want, flagged or not, delete it.

If I am forwarding my email to an address outside UST, will my email be scanned?

Yes. When a stthom.edu address is forwarded to a destination outside UST, such as to a Yahoo or AOL account, scanning and flagging occur before the message is forwarded.

Why doesn't IT just block spam?

While it is possible (and tempting) to block spam at the server, the possibility of false positives always exists. The only way IT can guarantee delivery of legitimate email messages that may be mistakenly evaluated as spam by the server is not to block any messages.

Can I set up my Webmail to filter spam?

  1. Log into Webmail.
  2. Click "Options" on the tool bar.
  3. Select "Mail Filter" left side bar.
  4. Create a new filter and follow the instructions on the form.

Does spam flagging also scan for viruses?

No, but all mail going to the UST email server is also scanned for viruses.

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The University of St. Thomas, dedicated to educating leaders of faith and character, is a private institution committed to the liberal arts and to the religious, ethical and intellectual tradition of Catholic higher education. St. Thomas is Houston’s only Catholic University and was founded by the Basilian Fathers in 1947.
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