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McAfee.com SpamKiller 2.90 review:

McAfee.com SpamKiller 2.90

  • 1
Typical Price: £39.00
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The Good Includes scads of built-in filters; makes it easy to update filters or build your own; lets you review killed mail before deleting it; forwards complaints to spammer's ISPs.

The Bad Doesn't filter mail sent through AOL or MSN; occasionally lets some spam through or blocks good mail.

The Bottom Line An effective and easy-to-use tool for fighting spam, McAfee.com SpamKiller 2.90 is a must for anyone whose in-box is overrun by unwanted mail.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall

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By Dan Tynan

Originally developed by Novasoft, this five-year-old shareware spam slayer was recently purchased by McAfee.com, which cleaned up a few bugs. The result? For $39.95, you get a veteran spam buster that boasts thousands of built-in and customizable filters for ridding your PC of unwanted e-mail. If you receive only a few pieces of spam a day, just delete the pesky messages by hand. Otherwise, download McAfee.com SpamKiller posthaste.

Editors' Note:
On January 6, 2003, McAfee bought Deersoft and announced plans to merge SpamAssassin Pro with McAfee's own Spam Killer product later in this year. A full review of Spam Killer 4.0 will be available shortly.


By Dan Tynan

Originally developed by Novasoft, this five-year-old shareware spam slayer was recently purchased by McAfee.com, which cleaned up a few bugs. The result? For $39.95, you get a veteran spam buster that boasts thousands of built-in and customizable filters for ridding your PC of unwanted e-mail. If you receive only a few pieces of spam a day, just delete the pesky messages by hand. Otherwise, download McAfee.com SpamKiller posthaste.

Natural-born killer
SpamKiller's premise is simple: before you check your e-mail, SpamKiller fetches messages from the mail server, then filters them based on your restrictions and its built-in rules. Suspected spam ends up in your Killed Mail folder, where you can review it before deleting it; good mail goes to your SpamKiller in-box. Once you've cleansed the mail of spam, just launch your e-mail client and download only the leftover mail.

Installing SpamKiller is a breeze; click your way through a wizard, then reboot. The program picks up your existing POP and SMTP server settings. The only snag: in our tests, SpamKiller found settings for RoadRunner, an ISP we hadn't used in nearly two years. (SpamKiller's tech support was unable to come up with a reason for this.) We had to set up our account manually, which is easy enough to do. Just click the Accounts button, then click Add and follow along with the wizard.

Good filters
SpamKiller's strength lies in its thousands of preexisting filters. It sifts e-mail by the sender's name, the message header, the subject, the message text, and the country of origin. It also flags mail that it's not sure about. For example, if you've copied yourself on a message, SpamKiller sends it to your in-box with a question mark attached because the From address equals the To address, a common tactic used by spammers.

Curiously, SpamKiller filtered test mail containing the words human growth hormone, but it let through messages that had the acronym HGH. Fortunately, it's easy to create your own filters, specifying the field you want to filter (Message Text), as well as the conditions (contains HGH) and actions (Kill). As spammers find new ways to get past filters, McAfee creates new filters, which you can download to SpamKiller by clicking the Update button.

Some limitations
Overall, SpamKiller gets it right most of the time. In our tests, it let through slightly more unwanted mail than SpamCop did, but it tagged fewer legitimate messages as spam. SpamKiller identified and killed 20 messages; 3 were legitimate ones from mailing lists, but we quickly added them back to our in-box by clicking the Rescue button. It accepted 43 messages; 6 of which were pure spam, including one with a virus attachment. Unlike SpamCop, SpamKiller does not detect viruses, nor can it filter the text of MIME-encoded mail, messages sent via America Online, or those from Microsoft Network. A McAfee spokesperson says that the company plans to support these services in a future release, possibly before year's end.

Fight back
SpamKiller lets you enact revenge against lowly spammers by looking up the domain and e-mail addresses of a sender's ISP, then sending complaints to the ISP's abuse department--a much easier method than SpamCop's complex reporting process. You can also set SpamKiller to automatically reply with an error message, fooling the spammer into thinking your address isn't valid. It doesn't get any better than that.

The techno two-step
Unfortunately, SpamKiller's process still requires two steps: you must filter mail in SpamKiller, then download it to your e-mail client, which amounts to more work than necessary for low-spam in-boxes. But if your in-box houses more spam than legitimate messages, give this program a whirl.

Take me back to the roundup!

Use SpamKiller's Complain box to forward spam to abuse departments and send phony error messages back to spammers, making them think your e-mail address is invalid.

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