Mail filters

Server-side mail filters

If you receive mail from a variety of mailing lists or organisations you may find that you spend a lot of time sorting this mail into folders within your inbox. You may have even gone as far as creating mail filters in your email client to automatically sort your incoming email for you. This approach normally works well until you start accessing your email from lots of different mail clients in different locations. For instance at home you may use Mail, in work you might use Thunderbird, at a friends you might use the webmail interface and finally you may also want to check your email from your smartphone. Setting up the same filter rules across all these devices can be tedious if it is even possible. To get around this problem you can set up rules on the mail server so that your emails get filtered into the correct folders as soon as they arrive. You can setup and configure mail filters from the mailbox manager. Of course to do this you need to login to the mailbox manager web service. You can access the mailbox manager web interface at http://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk or securely at https://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk.

Note if you login securely you will get a warning that “the identity of this website has not been verified,” or “server’s certificate does not match the URL,” or “server’s certificate is not trusted,” in your web browser. This is because the mailbox configuration service is hosted by our ISP, Dreamhost, and the certificate is issued by them rather than us. Your browser will normally let you view the certificate. If you click on this your browser will give you the option to always trust this certificate or install this certificate. Either of these should resolve this problem for you.

Once you login you will see a screen similar to that shown below. You can configure quite a lot of things from the mailbox manager interface. Many of these features are pretty self-explanatory but more details can be found in this post.

Mailbox manager screen shot

Under the heading Email Filters there is the option Add New Filter for [your email address]. Clicking on this link brings up a new window with all the available options to configure your filter as shown below.

Email filter options

Much like mail filters in your email client there is a line which defines the search criteria and then several lines allowing you to specify what you would like to do with email that matches the search.

The first line defines the search and the first drop down menu allows you to select the field you want to search in, for instance: the From field which would normally contain the email address of the sender; the Subject field, which would be the subject of the email; the To field, the email address or address that the email is being sent to; the Body, i.e. the main text of the email etc. The second drop down menu lets you specify whether you want the field to contain or not contain the search term. Finally the text entry field lets you define what you want to search for. In the example above it is the term amazon.

If you want to create more complex multi-layered searches you can add another search line by clicking on the ‘+’ icon to the right of the text field. Perhaps you might want to search for emails From amazon with the Subject bill. You can add any number of layers.

The next line defines whether you want the search to act when it matches any of your search fields or all of them. You can select which you want by ticking the applicable radio button beside all and any of the above. For instance you might want to use any of the above to match emails From amazon or From hmv.

The following five lines give you the options on what you want to do with your emails that you have matched via your search. In the example above the radio button Move it to folder: is selected and the text field specifies the folder Amazon. Note that the folder must already exist in your inbox in order for the filter to be able to move the email into it. All of the options are pretty self explanatory. Forward it to email address: will forward the email to another email address you specify, perhaps a work address or a friends address. Add your text to the subject adds some text to the subject line, perhaps you might want to add Urgent or something similar. Add the header your text adds a new header to the email which another email client may use to filter. Finally Delete it quite obviously deletes the email.

Finally under If this filter matches there is a drop down menu offering you the option to  execute and continue or execute and stop. The former will run this filter and then continue to run any filters after it in your list. The later will run this filter and then stop. It will therefore not execute any filters in your list after it. Generally your last filter in your list should execute and stop while all the others should execute and continue.

Once you are happy with your filter click on the Add Filter button and you are done. You’ll now be returned to the homepage of the mailbox manager and under Email Filters you will see your new filter listed. From here you can choose to Edit it or Delete it or you can add another filter. You can have as many filters as you want.

Filter added screen shoot

Some tips

It is worth testing your filters before you let them loose. If your filters aren’t working as expected make sure the search criteria matches what is in the emails your trying to filter exactly. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is cut and paste the From or Subject from your email into the filter. If your filter is catching additionally emails then try adding more terms to the filter with the ‘+’ button to improve the selectivity.

Auto-responder

Auto responding to your email

If you are away you may wish to set the mail server to automatically reply to any emails received in order to inform people that you are away. An auto-response can be setup from the mailbox manager. To configure this you need to login to the mailbox manager web service. You can access the mailbox manager web interface at http://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk or securely at https://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk.

Note if you login securely you will get a warning that “the identity of this website has not been verified,” or “server’s certificate does not match the URL,” or “server’s certificate is not trusted,” in your web browser. This is because the mailbox configuration service is hosted by our ISP, Dreamhost, and the certificate is issued by them rather than us. Your browser will normally let you view the certificate. If you click on this your browser will give you the option to always trust this certificate or install this certificate. Either of these should resolve this problem for you.

Once you login you will see a screen similar to that shown below. You can configure quite a lot of things from the mailbox manager interface. Many of these features are pretty self-explanatory but more details can be found in this post.

Mailbox manager screen shot

 The Auto-Responder configuration can be found at the bottom of the mailbox manager interface. The options available are shown in the screen shot below.
Screen shot of auto-responder
Under the menu Auto-Responder you can configure everything about the auto-responder. At the top there is a tick box to activate the auto responder. Below this there are the From, Subject and Body fields that you would expect in any email. These three fields let you configure your generic automatic email response. To the right of the Subject field there is a tick box to Quote Subject, if ticked this simply replies to the email with the subject field used by the sender rather than one defined by you. If you are using this you should leave your Subject field blank. Below the Body field is a tick box which needs checked if your email body contains HTML. This ensures the email gets sent as a HTML email rather than a plain text one.
Finally at the bottom you have the option to set the date and time you want the auto-responder to start and stop. Note the format is years-months-days hours:minutes:seconds. Also the time zone is Pacific Time (i.e. GMT -8 hours during the winter) which you may need to take account of. Once you’ve configured your auto-responder click the Update Auto-Responder button to save the changes. As noted on the mailbox manager it can take up to 1 hour for the changes to go live, i.e. for the mail server to start or stop automatically replying to your emails.

Inbox house keeping

Inbox house keeping

The mail server is configured to prevent all your email staying in your inbox, this is to aid performance on the mail server. Typically the mail server will move email messages that have been sitting in your inbox to a folder called old-messages once they have been sitting in your inbox for 45 days or if there is more than 250 messages in your inbox. To configure these settings you need to login to the mailbox manager web service. You can access the mailbox manager web interface at http://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk or securely at https://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk.

Note if you login securely you will get a warning that “the identity of this website has not been verified,” or “server’s certificate does not match the URL,” or “server’s certificate is not trusted,” in your web browser. This is because the mailbox configuration service is hosted by our ISP, Dreamhost, and the certificate is issued by them rather than us. Your browser will normally let you view the certificate. If you click on this your browser will give you the option to always trust this certificate or install this certificate. Either of these should resolve this problem for you.

Once you login you will see a screen similar to that shown below. You can configure quite a lot of things from the mailbox manager interface. Many of these features are pretty self-explanatory but more details can be found in this post.

Mailbox manager screen shot

Under the heading Inbox Housekeeping you can change how many and how long messages are allowed to sit in your inbox. You can choose were to move messages to, whether the server should notify you via email that it has moved messages and whether or not you wish it to Even expire new messages, i.e. move messages which you’ve not yet read. Change the settings as you desire and then make sure you click on the button, Update Settings to save the changes.

Changing your email password

 

To change your email password you need to login to the mailbox manager web service. You can access the mailbox manager web interface at http://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk or securely at https://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk. If you plan to change your password we strongly recommend that you login securely.

Note if you login securely you will get a warning that “the identity of this website has not been verified,” or “server’s certificate does not match the URL,” or “server’s certificate is not trusted,” in your web browser. This is because the mailbox configuration service is hosted by our ISP, Dreamhost, and the certificate is issued by them rather than us. Your browser will normally let you view the certificate. If you click on this your browser will give you the option to always trust this certificate or install this certificate. Either of these should resolve this problem for you.

Once you login you will see a screen the top of which is shown below. You can configure quite a lot of things from the mailbox manager interface. Many of these features are pretty self-explanatory but more details can be found in this post.

Change password screen shot

To change your password you simply need to enter your new password twice under the Change Your Password heading shown above and then click on the button Change it! You will now need to use your new password when accessing your webmail, the mailbox manager and with any email clients you use to access your email.

Advice on creating a strong password you can remember

There are many ways to create a long, complex password. Here are some suggestions that might help you remember it easily:

What to do Example
Start with a sentence or two. I love complex passwords.
Remove the spaces between the words in the sentence. Ilovecomplexpasswords.
Turn words into shorthand or intentionally misspell a word. IloveComplekp@sswords.
Add length with numbers. Put numbers that are meaningful to you after the sentence. IloveComplekp@sswords2012.

You can check the strength of your password using online tools such as this password strength assessor provided by Microsoft. The stronger your password the better.

Mailbox Manager

Various aspects of your email can be controlled via a web interface known as Mailbox Manager. From this web interface you can:

You can access the mailbox manager web interface at http://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk or securely at https://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk.

Note if you login securely you will get a warning that “the identity of this website has not been verified,” or “server’s certificate does not match the URL,” or “server’s certificate is not trusted,” in your web browser. This is because the mailbox configuration service is hosted by our ISP, Dreamhost, and the certificate is issued by them rather than us. Your browser will normally let you view the certificate. If you click on this your browser will give you the option to always trust this certificate or install this certificate. Either of these should resolve this problem for you.

Spam filtering

Using junk mail filtering to control spam

Junk mail filtering attempts to give you control of how you manage spam that arrives to your email account on the mail server. You can prevent mail flagged as junk from ever reaching your inbox, or alternatively filter it into a junk mail folder (the default). To configure your junk email filters you need to login to the mailbox manager web service. You can access the mailbox manager web interface at http://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk or securely at https://mailboxes.mtheory.co.uk.

Note if you login securely you will get a warning that “the identity of this website has not been verified,” or “server’s certificate does not match the URL,” or “server’s certificate is not trusted,” in your web browser. This is because the mailbox configuration service is hosted by our ISP, Dreamhost, and the certificate is issued by them rather than us. Your browser will normally let you view the certificate. If you click on this your browser will give you the option to always trust this certificate or install this certificate. Either of these should resolve this problem for you.

Once you login you will see a screen similar to that shown below. You can configure quite a lot of things from the mailbox manager interface. Many of these features are pretty self-explanatory but more details can be found in this post.

Mailboxes main page

Under the heading Junkmail Quarantine there is the option to Configure Junkmail Settings? highlighted in red in the above image. Click through on this link and you’ll be presented with the screen below.

Junkmail settings options

Under the heading Quarantine Settings there are several options which can be configured:

  • Quarantine to IMAP folder? – If you specify a folder name here mail deemed as junk by the filter will be moved to this folder on the IMAP server. In the example above mail will be moved to the Junk folder. If you leave it blank mail will be quarantined and you will have to login to the mailboxes interface to view quarantined messages.
  • At what spam score should emails be tagged as spam? – You can enter a number between 1 and 999. The filter attempts to asses the likely hood of an email being spam. It does this by looking at the message headings, content of the email etc and giving the email a score. It then compares this score with your threshold and if it is above the threshold level it moves the email to the folder specified in the field above. In the above example the threshold level is set to 999 which means emails will never be moved. As a result the filter will do nothing. The lower the number the more aggressive the spam filtering. If you want to stop spam from getting into your inbox you will probably need to set the level between 1 and 10. It might be worth starting at 10 and reducing it until no spam makes it into your inbox. This will almost certainly result in mail your want getting marked as spam, you can fix this by adding these email addresses to your whitelist (described below). Alternatively if you only receive spam from a couple of email address you could set the threshold relatively high (perhaps 50) and then blacklist (described below) the address which spam you.
  • At what spam score should emails be quarantined? This is the same as the above except if you left the Quarantine to IMAP folder blank then the emails get quarantined on the server and never make it into your email box. The thresholds and whitelists/blacklists are the same as above. In this case the junk mail filter will send you one email telling you that messages have been quarantined with details of the messages. This can be configured in the next setting.
  • When should you receive quarantine email reports? If you left the Quarantine to IMAP folder blank and set the threshold to something low (like 4 as above) then email which the server thinks is spam will be held in quarantine. As already mentioned there’s a chance that the filter may catch emails you want to receive. Thus the system gives you the option to receive a single email with details of all the messages that have been quarantined. This email can be sent on a daily basis, on weekdays only, once a month or never as selected by the buttons. In the example above it is set for weekdays but as the Quarantine to IMAP folder is not blank the mail will be tagged as spam and moved to a folder on the IMAP server and no quarantine report will be sent.
  • Update settings – when you change any settings you need to click on the update setting button to save your new settings.

Under the heading Add Whitelist/Blacklist you can add email addresses and domains to your whitelist/blacklist. A whitelist is a list of email address or domains which you do not want the filter to move if it thinks they are spam. For instance if you got regular emails from some sort of online store (lets call it ‘Store.com‘) they may be from an email address something like no-reply@store.com. The filter may identify these as spam so if you want to receive these emails you could add no-reply@store.com to your whitelist.

Similarly a blacklist does the exact opposite and tells the spam filter that email from this address or domain is spam and should be filtered even if it doesn’t think it is spam.

You can add email addresses to the whitelist and black list by adding the address to the box under Email Address. You then need to chose whether it gets whitelisted or blacklisted from the drop down menu, set the priority and then click the Add button. For individual addresses set the priority to highest. For domains you may well want to consider setting the priority lower to high, low or lowest. This essentially subtracts a fixed value from the spam score for the email thus possibly keeping the email below your spam threshold. For instance you may get very little spam from email addresses with the domain @gmail.com. Thus you might want to whitelist this domain but you may still get the odd spam email so perhaps you don’t want everything to automatically get through, in which case you might set the priority to low.

Unfortunately there isn’t a set of universal rules which will work for everyone so you will just have to adjust the filter settings until you get to some sort of level were you are happy. For instance you might whitelist everyone in your address book and then set your threshold to be very low to catch everything else.

The screenshot below shows the addition of some email address and domains to the whitelist and blacklist. You can remove email addresses or domains from the whitelist/blacklist by checking the box next to the email address under the Remove Whitelist/Blacklist heading and clicking on the button Remove Selected.

Junk filter settings showing whitelist/blacklist

Finally if you have chosen to have mail quarantined you will probably want to access this email at some point. This can be done by clicking on the Quarantined Messages link next to the letter icon at the very top of the page. You will be presented with a screen as shown below but probably with some messages listed in it.

Quarantined messages

From this screen you can take one of four actions to deal with messages. You can select messages with the tick boxes and then click on one of the five buttons at the top of the page.

  • Move to Inbox – simply moves the message into your inbox so you can read it in your email.
  • Whitelist/Inbox – adds the email address to your whitelist so that email from this address doesn’t get quarantined again and moves the message into your inbox so you can read it.
  • Blacklist/Delete – adds the email address to your blacklist so that email from this address always gets quarantined and then deletes the message.
  • Delete – simply deletes the message from your quarantine.
  • Refresh – refreshes the list of messages in your quarantine.

If you don’t do anything with the messages in your quarantine they will get deleted after 35 days.

That is all there is to know about spam filtering on mtheory. Should you have any more questions then please get in touch with the administrator.