Nyms App Leaves Spammers Out in the Cold
Nov 28, 2006 4:00 AM PT
There are lots of software programs, as well as e-mail add-ons, to fight spam, but none are as clever or will give you the visceral satisfaction of Nyms.
Nyms, which is sold on an annual subscription basis of US$19.95, is the cerebral spawn of the folks at Anonymizer, an Internet privacy and security outfit out of San Diego, Calif.
The devilish program lets you create disposable e-mail addresses. These "nyms" can be used wherever you're asked for an e-mail address when surfing the Web.
For example, if you want information from a Web site but aren't sure what the operators of that site will do with your e-mail address, you can give them a nym instead of your real address.
Or you may want to comment about something on a Web site, but don't want your address scraped from the forum and used by spammers. What's more, if your comments draw the ire and correspondence of other, more toxic forum posters, the nym can be handy for silencing them, too.
When mail is sent to the nym, it's routed through Anonymizer's servers to your real e-mail address. If the nym is harvested by spammers, you can shut it off from your computer and Anonymizer will trash all future mail sent to the address.
Dead End for Slimeballs
Spam filters can be pretty effective, but there's always something sneaking through the holes in the sieve. When that happens, I can get very annoyed, even though I know no anti-spam program is perfect.
With Nyms, there's an undeniable satisfaction in knowing that when you turn a spammed address off, the slimeball behind the intrusion into your cyberspace has been foiled. Better yet, all his partners in crime to whom he handed the address off will be wasting bandwidth on it, too.
Although designed with exclusion in mind, nyms can also be used for identifying friends. You can create a nym and only give it to important folks -- friends, family, the boss. Then you can create a mail filter that will divert messages with that nym address to a special folder. That way, your most important mail won't get buried in the rest of all the traffic in your inbox.
Setting up Nyms is untaxing. When installing the program, it may disturb any antivirus software you have running on your computer, so it may be necessary to turn off that software until the install is complete.
If your antivirus software behaves like mine, Zone Alarm Security Suite, it will alert you when Nyms tries to access system files and reach the Internet. Once alerted, you should be able to tell the antivirus software to let Nyms do its thing.
Operating Nymns from its control panel is very simple. From the panel, you can create a nym, manage nyms, send anonymous e-mail and create a guest nym.
Customize or Randomize?
When you create a nym, you're given the choice of creating a custom or randomly generated nym.
The problem with custom nyms is that the one you cook up may already be taken. You have to ask yourself, is it worth the time finding an unreserved address for something I may have to trash in the future anyway?
On the other hand, while random nyms can be generated quickly, chances are you won't be committing them to memory. My first nym, for instance, was firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ingenious Spam Fighter
Every nym you create appears in the management section of the control panel. If you want to turn a nym off, you select it, click "edit" and choose "disable" in the edit window.
You can send mail from inside the program with its "send anonymous mail" feature enabled. When the recipient of the message receives it, it will appear to have been sent from the nym address you specified. When the recipient replies to the message, however, the response will end up in your e-mail program's inbox.
The "create a guest" feature of the program is a way to spread its visibility virally. It allows you to invite a friend to try out Nyms.
Nyms is an ingenious way to protect your e-mail address from spammers and other miscreants on the Web.