Hotmail Users Have A Weapon Against Spam

Microsoft has linked up with anti-spam technology
provider Brightmail in an attempt to stem the tide of junk e-mail messages
flooding the in-boxes of MSN Hotmail’s 110 million users.

Hotmail, the most popular free Web-based e-mail service, has become a top
target of spammers. Its users are subjected to unsolicited messages offering
everything from cut-rate mortgages to used printer cartridges to hard-core
porn.

San Francisco-based Brightmail’s technology aims to kill spam before it ever
reaches a user’s in-box. Using Brightmail’s Probe Network, a grouping of
over 200 million e-mail addresses, Brightmail tries to lure spam. After its
software identifies the spam, it then goes for the kill, filtering the
unsolicited messages as they reach the SMTP gateway. Brightmail said its software catches about 90 percent of junk-mail messages.

“Unsolicited junk e-mail is a global problem the affects not just Hotmail
users, but e-mail users everywhere,” Rick Holzli, general manager of MSN
Hotmail, said in a statement.

MSN said Brightmail’s anti-spam technology would be put to use later this
fall.

In April 2001, Brightmail signed a deal to deploy anti-spam software as an option for MSN’s 5 million e-mail users.

The Brightmail alliance is the second enlistee MSN has signed up this month in its war against Hotmail spam. Two weeks ago, McAfee announced its SpamKiller software, which costs $39.95, was compatible with Hotmail. A further option will be Microsoft’s MSN 8 service, which will offer enhanced spam controls, along with a bevy of other add-on services. Microsoft is slated to release MSN 8 in the next few weeks.

Hotmail relies on self-service tools that attempt to filter junk
mail, with mixed success. Hotmail users can choose their level of filtering,
up to exclusive, which only allows e-mail messages from addresses in a
user’s contact list.

“Microsoft selected us because you have to scale and we proved we can do that,” Brightmail CEO Enrique Salem told Internet News, ” and second is accuracy. Accuracy is key.”

Salem said too many spam filters take out messages that are not actually junk mail. Brightmail’s false-positive rate, however, is just one per 100,000, he said.

Once an annoyance, spam has become a menace on the Internet, as evidenced by
the crippling
blow
spammers dealt AT&T’s WorldNet in February.

In July, Brightmail reported that 36 percent of the 2.3 billion messages
that went through its deployed software was spam, up from 8 percent a year
ago. Junk mail has become a major problem for businesses, as spam eats up
bandwidth, storage space, and employee productivity.

Consumer groups recently called for the federal authorities to become more involved in the war
on spam, as a
growing portion of it is for scams
, including the notorious and
ubiquitous Nigerian letter scam and its imitators. The Internet Fraud
Complaint Center estimates Americans were bilked out of $17.8 million
through online fraud last year.

With e-mail address lists plentiful and cheap, spam is likely to
only grow worse
. Mail-Abuse Prevention Systems, an anti-spam
organization, estimates the number of unsolicited e-mail rose as much as 700
percent between April and June compared to the same period a year earlier.

According to researcher Gartner Group, only 5 percent of enterprises will
block 90 percent of the malicious e-mails sent to their e-mail addresses.

Brightmail, along with anti-spam software startups like IronPort and
Cloudmark, has sought to capitalize on growing worries over the costs of
spam. The company boasts deals with
six of the top ten Internet service providers
to deploy its software.

Financial details of the Hotmail deal were not announced, but Brightmail
traditionally charges by the number of e-mail boxes it protects rather than
a licensing agreement.

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