Use Spamassassin for better SPAM detection

Jack Wallen
May 1, 2009
Updated • Feb 13, 2018

The Linux operating system is typically immune to viruses attached to email. But it is not immune to SPAM. Left unfiltered your inbox would quickly fill up with more SPAM than you care to delete. What is worse is owning a mail server and not protecting your users from a barrage of SPAM.

By employing Spamassassin you can set up an outstanding SPAM  filter system that will protect your users. It's not as simple as double clicking an .exe file to install, but the end results will be worth the time and effort.

Installing the tool

This portion of the task is simple. Open up your Add/Remove utility, do a search for "spamassassin" (no quotes), select the results, and apply the changes. After you have installed the package you need to take a few steps to finish up the installation.

Now you are going to need a local.rc file. You can open up the /etc/mail/spamassassin/local.rc file for hand editing, or you can use this handy web-based tool to set it up for you. This tool was written by Michael Moncur and makes the setup of Spamassassin much easier. Once you have selected all your options click the Generate button and then click the Download button. You will need to place this file in /etc/mail/spamassassin in order for it to be used.

It's time to start the daemon. Issue the command /etc/init.d/spamassassin start (or /etc/rc.d/init.d/spamassassin start - depending upon your distribution.)

Test the install

Spamassassin comes with a sample file you can run through the filter for testing. In modern installations this file is located in /usr/share/doc/spamassassin-*/sample-spam.txt. To test this issue the command:

spamc -R </usr/share/doc/spamassassin-3.2.5/sample-spam.txt

You should see results like this:

Content analysis details:   (1000.0 points, 5.0 required)

pts rule name              description
---- ---------------------- --------------------------------------------------
-0.0 NO_RELAYS              Informational: message was not relayed via SMTP
1000 GTUBE                  BODY: Generic Test for Unsolicited Bulk Email
-0.0 NO_RECEIVED            Informational: message has no Received headers

As you can see, this sample scored 1000 points. Only 5 points are required for an email to be considered SPAM. It's safe to say this is SPAM and safe to say Spamassassin is working.

Using Spamassassin with Procmail

You will need to set up Procmail (or another MTA) in order to deliver mail. What we want to do is set this up globally so you don't have to deal with each users ~/.procmailrc file. To do this you will edit the /etc/procmailrc file. All you need to do is add the following lines:



| /usr/bin/spamc

Spamassassin should now be working.

Training spamassassin

At first you might not notice much of a drop in SPAM. This is because Spamassassin has to have a period of training.  There is a built-in tool for this called sa-learn. What you need to do is create two folders, one for SPAM and one for HAM. In the SPAM folder collect 100 or so emails that are definately SPAM. In the HAM folder collect 100 or so valid emails. Once you have those folders collected issue the following commands:

sa-learn --spam /PATH/TO/SPAM/FOLDER

sa-learn --ham /PATH/TO/HAM/FOLDER

Where /PATH/TO/SPAM/FOLDER and /PATH/TO/HAM/FOLDER are the explicit paths to these folders.

You can also set up a cron job to help Spamassassin train frequently if you need.

Final Thoughts

If SPAM is clogging up your Linux mail server you will be wise to employ a tool like Spamassassin. Your users and your IT staff will thank you for it.

Article Name
Use Spamassassin for better SPAM detection
The Linux operating system is typically immune to viruses attached to email. But it is not immune to SPAM. Left unfiltered your inbox would quickly fill up with more SPAM than you care to delete.
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  1. JMGG said on January 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    You said that Outlook isn’t your main email client, so which is your main one?

    1. BalaC said on January 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I think its thunderbird

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

      It is Mozilla Thunderbird.

  2. Salaam said on September 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome! This actually solved my problem… what a stupid bug.

  3. Claud said on December 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    If this is the same bug that I’ve encountered, there may be another fix: (1) hover over open Outlook item in Taskbar, cursor up to hover over Outlook window item, and right-click; (2) this should give you Restore / Move / Size / Minimize / Maximize — choose Move or Size; (3) use your cursor keys, going arbitrarily N/S/E/W, to try to move or size the Outlook window back into view. Basically, the app behaves as though it were open in a 0x0 window, or at a location that’s offscreen, and this will frequently work to resize and/or move the window. Don’t forget to close while resized/moved, so that Outlook remembers the size/position for next time.

    1. Lynda said on February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      THANK YOU Claude!!! I could get the main window to launch but could not get any other message window to show on the desktop. You are my hero!!!!

    2. Chad said on November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Solved my issue! 6 years later and this is still problem…

    3. Ivan X said on January 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Fantastic. Thank you. Size did the trick.

  4. Andrew said on October 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

    This solved my Outlook problem, too. Thank you. :)

  5. Charles said on December 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you so much, this started happening to me today and was causing big problems. You are a life saver, I hope I can help you in some way some day.

  6. garth said on November 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    You are a god – thank you!

  7. Faisal said on February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    thanks a lot…. work like charm.. :-)

  8. Simon said on March 24, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Yah…thanks Claude. I’ve been having the same problem and tried all the suggestions…your solution was the answer. It had resized itself to a 0/0 box. Cheers

  9. Olu said on April 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post. This had me baffled even trying to accurately describe the problem. This fixed it for me.
    Thank you

  10. Coenig said on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Thanks a lot for the article. Don’t know why it happenend, don’t know how it got fixed, but it was really annoying and now it works :-)

  11. Fali said on January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was facing this issue from past 3 week. I tried everything but no resolution. The issue was happening intermittently and mainly when I was changing the display of screen ( as i use 2 monitors). The only option i had was to do system restore. But thanks to you.

    1. MIki said on January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      I’ve been tried to sole this problem for 12hours. Your comment about changing the display of screen helped me a lot!! Thanks!!

  12. Christina said on January 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you…don’t know why this happened but your instructions helped me fix it. Running Windows 10 and office pro 2007

  13. Oz said on July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great tip! Thanks!

  14. Tracy said on September 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Worked for me, too – thank you!!!

  15. shawn said on September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s Worked for me, too
    thank you very much!

  16. Jari said on October 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had a similar issue with Outlook 2013 on Windows 10 and this helped me to fix it. Thank you very much!

  17. Michel H said on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thank you so much. Solved!
    Considering you published this in 2012, incredible not been debugged by Microsoft.
    Thank you again. M

  18. Ziad Bitar said on January 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

    This problem was faced by only one user logging to TS 2008 r2 using outlook 2010.The issue was resolved.


  19. Anonymous said on February 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Great tip. Thank you!!!! If it helps, I had to use the Control Key and the arrow keys at the same time to bring my window back into view. Worked like a charm.

  20. Rochelle said on March 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, this worked !!!!

  21. anom1234 said on May 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Man, you are a fucking god. Thanks a lot, what an annoying bug!!

  22. JC said on October 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome, this post solved the issue. Many thanks!

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