Remember when email was fun? I do. I've been using email for about 10 years
now. I got my first Compuserve account back in 1994. A little while after
that, Greg and I purchased our own domain, MouseTrax.com. So I've had my email
address for a long time. And unlike some folks, I don't change my email address.
I also help provide support in a lot of groups, so my email address is out
there. That also means spammers get my address and send me tons of junk mail.
It wasn't so bad until about a year ago. Seems that suddenly it really got
nuts. These days I get about 1200 pieces of junk mail...a day! Sure, it's
aggravating and a waste of my time, but...for the most part...Outlook 2003
does a pretty good job at keeping all that stuff out of my inbox, so I don't
have to deal with it. Although I still do have to scan the daily junk pile
to make sure nothing important got sucked up in there. And I have so many
rules set for my email these days, that I wish Microsoft would do a better
job providing sorting capabilities for their rules. It's a real pain making
adjustments to the priority list when you have so many rules to manage!
Occasionally someone asks me if I got their email and I didn't. So I fear
that I might be missing rescuing some important emails now and then. That
means that I have to add even more rules to grab emails from important friends
and family so they don't get snagged. That's aggravating, too! If you ever
send me email and never hear back, you might want to check to make sure I
even got the original email!
The level of junk mail I get each day also means that I have to leave my inbox
running all day to collect all my mail from the server before it fills up
and causes important mail to bounce. I've noticed that TechTrax gets more
and more bounced email these days from subscribers. But not because their
email address is wrong. Seems folks are keeping their addresses updated in
our database pretty well (see www.mousetrax.com/techtrax,
if you need to update your email address or delete an old one). The bounces
generally say that they can't be delivered because the recipient's inbox
exceeds it's limits. That probably means they, too, are fighting
tons of junk mail and loads of virus email that's jamming up their inbox
so the TechTrax notices they've requested don't make it into their mail.
If you don't get your monthly notice, know that we tried!
Spammers, junk mail and viruses are bad enough. But what's really starting
to get me ticked off are these spoofers! A spoofer will send out junk mail
containing some phone number or web link, but they'll use someone else's
email address as the reply address. That means that when you get junk mail
and decide to reply and blast that person for sending you that junk mail...it
doesn't go to the real person who sent it...it goes to some innocent person!
Every once in awhile I get one of those. I just got one the other day. This
idiot, named Jerry, (I'm tempted to use his full name cos' he kept emailing
me for a couple days continuing his rant!<sigh>) Heck, I'm tempted to
give you his email address so you can all help me tell him what I think of
But I'm more professional than that and he's just ignorant. He sends me a
reply to some bogus email, cursing me. I politely explain that I never sent
the original email and provide him with details about spoofers. He claims
he's been using computers since the 60s and knows all about spoofers. Well,
if he did, he should have known better than to reply to junk mail, too! He's
obviously not the sharpest crayon in the box!<lol>
So why shouldn't you reply to junk email? Because that simply verifies that
you are a living, breathing person and that your email address is valid.
That also means that you'll now be getting tons more email because the idiot
on the other end will sell your address to other spammers. I tried explaining
this fact to my mom. We were doing pretty good keeping her spam down
to nearly nothing. But then she made the mistake of replying back to one
of the few that got through.<sigh> Within a week, she had tons of new
junk mail. Much of it porn. We finally had to dump her old address and get
her a new name. She's promised not to do that again. I think 30 emails a
day telling her how to enlarge various parts of her anatomy taught her a good
Oh, and never click those buttons at the bottom of emails saying "click
here to be removed from this mailing list." Most all of those are
scams, too, and will only get you tons more junk mail.
When a good friend of mine recently told me she received some nasty spam that
said it was sent from me, that was the last straw. I decided I had to try
to do something to combat the problem and at least be able to give folks
a way to know that email from me is really from me. So I purchased a digital
signature for my email.
It only cost about $15 and it made me feel better. I let everyone in my address
book know that I now have a digital signature so they shouldn't trust anything
that says it's from me unless it has my digital tag attached to the
email. But this digital signature thing also caused some problems. Not every
email program knows how to handle them. I've had friends who use Outlook
2000 email me back to tell me they don't even see the signature. So I guess
it doesn't do much good there. And I'm discovering that Outlook Express users
have to remove the signature before they can reply to my email or they have
to compose a new email. And my mom is one of those Outlook Express users!<sigh>
I hate making it more difficult for her to use. I'd hoped that once I validated
that her email should trust my digital signature the problem would be solved.
But Mike Glen informed me that he had to click Tools and uncheck the digital
signature option or his reply wouldn't send. So who knows if all the folks
on the other end are even able to read my email!
A fellow MVP has a signature, but something happens to his along the email
route so that it's not validated when it makes it through. He's using one
he got free from Thawte.
Brian says the problem isn't his certificate, it has something to do with
the way his ISP processes his mail, because mine showed up untrusted, too!
But I can't view his email unless I open it. When I try to view it in
Outlook's preview, I just get a message saying I have to open it, as you
can see in the image below.
When I do view it, it warns me that the signature isn't trusted.
And I know that a few of my recipients have gotten this same message at their
end from email I've sent. Email with my legit signature...but their programs
don't properly recognize the digital signature, so it's almost worse than
not even having one!
For the most part, I think having one is a good idea. But the technology needs
more work. And users need to understand them and learn how to use them so
they don't make it even harder to read important email.
If you get an email with a little certificate tag attached to the email icon,
that means there's a digital signature attached to the email, as you can
see from Beth's email image below.
When you open the email in Outlook, you'll see a little certificate icon,
as shown below. Note that I don't know how other programs handle it, but
I'd like to experiment with other folks who use other programs and/or have
a signature. If you'd like to exchange a few emails to experiment, let me
When you click on the little ribbon icon shown above, another dialog box opens,
You can click one of the buttons at the bottom to view the certificate.
And you can also choose to set the level of trust. If this is someone that
you know you can trust, set the level of trust so you don't have to click
to trust email from this person each time.
But as I said, unfortunately, you will still have to deal with some type of
adjustment if you plan to reply to that email. If anyone knows how to work
around that issue, I'd love to hear from you with more details!
If you're interested in getting your own digital signature, you can do so
from VeriSign. You can just go to the web site. Or, if you have Outlook,
you can click Tools > Options > Security and click the option to Get a Digital
That'll take you to Microsoft's web site where you can find VeriSign's link.
Click through to VeriSign.com. You sign up, pay the charge, reply back to
verify your email and download your signature. It'll load itself into Outlook.
You'll notice that the Post Office also offers a pretty cool digital signature
for your documents. I wanted to get one of those, too. But when I when through
the process, I ended up at the security agency they use with their certificates:
GeoTrust.com. I tried
to go through their verification process, after I made my payment, but they
do it by phone. You're supposed to wait for a call while you're signing up.
The call came through right away, but every time I attempted to enter the
verification code, it wouldn't work. After several attempts, it finally
cancelled my account, so I had to write back and request a refund. I don't
know what the problem was, but it was a pain in the butt and, although it's
a good idea, I personally won't recommend it. Now I have to hope I get
my credit card refunded properly! The guy who took my call sounded bored
to tears...so I'll let you know how that goes!<sigh>
I discovered another problem with having a digital signature. All my old email
templates no longer worked. The rules would send out the template, but they
were blank! So I had to make more adjustments to my rules. I believe once
I recreate the templates under the new signature, they should work. At least
I hope so!
But then there's also the issue of having to click OK each time I send out
an email. When you get your signature, you have to make a decision before
it's installed regarding the level of security to set. High means you have
to enter your ID password each time mail goes out. Medium just means you
have to click OK to verify that the ID is accessed and used. Set it to low
and you don't need to do anything, but then it can be accessed on your system
without you knowing it, such as by a virus. And that defeats the purpose
of having one. So I set mine to Medium. But now I can't have email automatically
sent, because I have to be here to click OK. Although I do still allow TechTrax
subscription confirmations to be sent, but now I've had to include a URL
in the subject line for readers to get the details on the web, since I can't
put them in the email, because they get erased! Greg later informed me that
the security levels we have here on our system should cover me well enough
to allow me to set the level to low and not worry about the access. But
now I can't figure out how to reset that security level!<sigh>
So the jury is still out regarding whether email digital IDs are a good thing
or not. It does help prove it's me, when it works. But it's also more work
for me. Thankfully, when I send out email to several people at once, I only
have to click one time for the email and not once for each recipient!
If you have any experience with digital signatures, good or bad, or have any
further information you'd like to share with our readers, we'd love to hear
from you. I still have a lot of questions about them and I'd love to hear
about your experiences using them. Feel free to use the Feedback menu
button above to share your information. If/when we get more details about
these, I'll put together an updated article and share what we've learned.
All this hassle...all this work...just because a bunch of idiots have nothing
better to do with their lives than cause problems to folks trying to
share the Internet! Email isn't much fun, any more!<sigh>