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RealTime IT News

Spam Solution Modeled on Success of Anti-Virus Software

"Spam is threatening the future of the Internet," and if it's not controlled the problem could render e-mail "unusable," according to Sunil Paul, CEO of Bright Light Technologies, speaking at the ISPcon show today.

Paul cited several recent studies documenting the problem:

  • Spam comprises up to 50 percent of the traffic at many ISPs and corporations.
  • Some ISPs estimate up to 10 percent of their monthly bills are used to combat spam.
  • Eighty percent of the traffic on newsgroups is spam.

"If we are not able to control spam, e-mail could end up unusable, the way many people consider newsgroups unusable," Paul said. Many of the techniques being used today to combat spam are flawed, Paul maintains, because they require that users limit their communications, such as avoiding mailing lists or changing e-mail addresses on a regular basis.

Paul said the software industry should look to the success of anti-virus software in crafting a solution. By sharing information about spammers, similiar to the way anti-virus software developers share information about viruses, system administrators can develop counter-measures.

Bright Light has developd a server-based counter-measure called SpamWall. The software filters incoming messages, searching both the headers and body of incoming messages in order to stop them before they reach a user's inbox. The company uses databases of current spammers to create the filters which spot incoming junk messages.

USA.net and Concentric Network are currently evaluating the SpamWall software, which is now in beta and is scheduled for a release by the end of the year. Paul said that Sendmail Pro will include SpamWall beginning in early 1999.

AT&T WorldNet and Earthlink are among the ISPs now sharing their spam-detection expertise with BrightLight to help develop the spam filters. In early 1999, the company will hold an anti-spam summit at which it hopes to broaden the number of ISPs and system administrators contributing expertise on the methods used by spammers so that they can detected and controlled by SpamWall.