Can I Autorespond to Spam?

Henry Abel is looking for spam-filtering software that will automatically reply to the mail it protects you from. "I'm sure that if the spammers got it all back they would soon stop."

Sorry, Henry, but that's not a good idea. A reply to a spam isn't likely to reach the spammer.

Few if any spams go out with an accurate From address. Most spam is sent through botnets--huge networks of infected computers. The actual owners of the computers don't know that their PCs are infected and criminals can take control of them at will. (The PCs within a botnet are sometimes called zombies, but a more accurate name would be Manchurian candidates.)

What's more, the outgoing addresses are usually forged, or spoofed, to hide the identity of the zombie PC. (Why? Because if you found out your PC was spamming people, you'd do something to stop it.) As likely as not, responding to spam would get you a lot of bounced email, and a lot of angry replies from innocent victims of your justifiable outrage.

Not exactly the solution you're asking for.

Email your technology questions to me at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

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