Efficient or Not
?"> The Nucleus report also makes statements about the declining effectiveness of spam filters in the face of an increasing volume of spam. This sounds more plausible. Indeed, the MessageLabs research indicates that 76 percent of the mail it processed in May was spam, up from 67 percent just a month earlier. Clearly, even very effective spam filters will keep letting spam through unless they are perfect, and we know theyre not perfect.But the Nucleus report speaks derisively of spam filers: "The impact of filtering technology on the volume of spam has dropped from 26 to 20 percent," it says. "Whereas spam filters have become more sophisticated over the past year, sheer growth in messages sent by spammers and corporate hesitation to set aggressive filters are among key factors driving this figure." Twenty percent? Where do they get such a number? Ive been involved in many a performance test of spam-filtering systems. Ill admit that there are limitations in benchmarking, but I feel safe saying that even bad filters stop well more than 20 percent. Once again, I asked Nucleus. Its response: "This indicates not the decreasing effectiveness of filterswe all agree they have gotten betterbut the corresponding increase in the number of spam messages received per user and the reluctance of administrators to set overaggressive filtering." This is dissatisfying. The report speaks of percentages. How can the filters have gotten better and yet detect a smaller percentage of spam? Maybe its just explained badly, but Im not inclined to give it that much credit. We see cost numbers like this all the time, and they always look fishy to me. Usually, we see them after some major worm outbreak, and we hear how it cost American business $8 billion. Think critically about such numbers. Hurricane Floyd ripped up the East Coast a few years ago, destroying property all along the wayincluding in my townand the cost of that was estimated at $4.5 billion. How much damage can a worm really do? Put your spam in that perspective. Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at http://security.eweek.com for the latest security news, reviews and analysis.
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