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Introduction to Thunderbird, part 5, security settings and handling Junk mail

OK, so by now we've covered many different areas and their basics.  Now it's time to think about security, setting up Thunderbird so that it handles for example Junk mail (Spam) and set it up so that you are better protected against malicious emails.

The first thing we need to do, is open the options window.  Try accessing the menu Tools > Options.  Then select the Security tab, the one with the lock icon:


Thunderbird options screen, security tab highlight


As you can see, the first thing we see are some options regarding "Junk", then there are other tabs such as "E-mail scams" and so on.  Let's deal with the Junk tab first.

I've ticked off "When I mark messages as Junk" and selected the option to move them to the "Junk" folder.  I think this a good alternative when it comes to dealing with Junk, because it gets it out of the way and lets you work with "real" email instead.  Then you can go to the Junk folder at your convenience and look through to see if something that wasn't Junk was considered Junk by Thunderbird.

OK, there are two more options on the Junk tab.  "Mark messages determined to be Junk as read", and "Enable adaptive junk filter logging".  I haven't ticked off any of those, because I want to know if I've read a message in the Junk folder, so that when I see an interesting subject in the Junk folder, I know if I've read (check whether it is Junk) earlier.

The second option "Enable adaptive junk filter logging" is I guess for more advanced users that want to have a look at how Thunderbird does its Junk filtering.  Unless you know you want this, leave that one unchecked as well.

One important thing to mention here, that gets a lot of new users of Junk filtering, is that you should train the Junk message filter with at least 100 non-Junk and 100 Junk messages, so that Thunderbird has some training in separating Junk and non-Junk.  One can't expect Thunderbird to "automagically" know what is and isn't Junk. So go through a set of Junk and non-Junk messages in a list, right click on them and mark as Junk or non-Junk.  Do so for at least 100 Junk, and 100 non-Junk messages.

OK, so onwards to the "E-mail Scams" tab... I've left this one ticked off as well, because it is always nice to know if there is something suspicious about the email message, that for example it could be a fake email to get you to reveal your credit-card details to some.  It has been said in the Thunderbird community that the E-mail Scams feature isn't that good, so don't put too much trust in that it protects you from everything.


Thunderbird options security tab, e-mail scams subtab


OK, so on to the Anti-Virus tab.  As you can see here:


Thunderbird options screen, security tab, anti-virus subtab


I've not ticked off the allow anti-virus to quarantine suspected virus emails.  However, I've heard that this option is necessary for some anti-virus programs to do their work, so I'll check it off, so that an Anti-Virus program that finds a virus in one of my emails stored on my computer, it won't delete or disable an entire mailbox.  More about Anti-Virus and Thunderbird can be read here.  Another note; it is possible that the creator of the Anti-Virus program you're using, has created an add-on to make it work better with Thunderbird.  It isn't always easy for them to keep up with new Thunderbird releases, so you should perhaps check that their add-on works with the newest version of Thunderbird, before you decide to upgrade Thunderbird.

OK, onwards to the passwords tab.  As you see here:


Thunderbird options screen, security tab, passwords subtab


I haven't made any special changes here.  The gist of the passwords tab is that whenever you enter a password in Thunderbird, you get the option of saving the password so you don't have to enter it again later.  You can view all saved passwords by clicking on the "Save Passwords" button.  The next part of the tab is the option of using a master password to protect any passwords you save in Thunderbird.  I guess if you're in doubt whether you should have a Master Password, set a Master Password.  I've evaluated my security and made the option of not saving a Master Password, because it just adds another password to remember.  One last note: Changing a password in Thunderbird does not change the password on the email server.  So if you want to change the password on the email account, first change it via the email service provider, and then in Thunderbird when it asks for a new one.

OK, we're almost through.  The last tab is the "Web Content" tab as seen here:


Thunderbird options screen, security tab, web content subtab


Long story short here..  this tab is for setting browser in Thunderbird, not reading HTML-messages.  I wouldn't recommend surfing in Thunderbird, except for browsing the Mozilla Thunderbird official sites that you can reach from the startpage in Thunderbird, when Thunderbird starts up.  if you enable cookies, cookies can be used to track you web page visits and so on.  But you can also say that you do not want to be tracked, that the websites you visit, the things you like shouldn't be tracked with the "Tell websites I do not want to be tracked".  So it might seem incoherent to allow cookies which enable tracking, and at the same time tell websites that you don't want to be tracked.

However, as an experienced web developer, I know that cookies can be used in many different ways besides tracking.  So enabling cookies while telling web sites that they shouldn't track you should be OK, if the web site admins are ethical, which I guess most are, the selection of do not track should be enough to keep your web activities private.

If you are in doubt, disable the accept cookies from sites as well, so that no cookies can be used in any manner.  This gives semi-good protection against tracking, there are some other ways you can still get tracked which are a bit technical, just trust me that you can be tracked. :)  Here is some more information about "Do Not Track" on Wikipedia if you're curious.

OK, that's it for this article, hope you found it to be fun and interesting.  :)

This is the fifth article in a series about Thunderbird, if you have Thunderbird-related topics you want covered here, let us know. Comments on this article, thumbs up or flames, can be sent to If you need help using Thunderbird, we recommend using the Thunderbird forums.

If you know a language or languages besides English and would like to translate these articles, let us know via as well. :)

Go on to the next article, about add-ons and Lightning (the calendar for Thunderbird).