Senate, Tech Sector Take Aim at Spam

 
 
By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2003-11-03
 
 
 

IT managers and software vendors alike are not optimistic about the potential effectiveness of federal legislation that aims to stop spam from getting into enterprise e-mail in-boxes.

The U.S. Senate late last month approved a bill, by a vote of 97-0, that would direct the Federal Trade Commission to create a do-not-spam registry, where users could register to block direct marketers from sending them unsolicited e-mail.

The bill also would prohibit sending spam with false source, destination or routing information; ban the harvesting of e-mail addresses from Web sites for spamming purposes; and require all commercial e-mail to include the senders physical address. It also would direct the FTC to study whether commercial e-mail messages should include a label identifying them as advertising so that e-mail filters could more easily block them.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering its own anti-spam bill, which likely will not go to a vote before January.

However, Mark Beal, senior director of IT at TBC Corp., doubts legislation will have much success in stopping spam.

"Whatever legislation they come up with, the spammers will find more ways to get around it. Theyll mask the return address, theyll mask the IP address, theyll try every trick in the book," said Beal, in Memphis, Tenn.

John Davies, president and CEO of e-mail server software developer Rockliffe Inc., which includes ActiveState Corp.s anti-spam software with its MailSite Server, agreed.

"I would doubt that legislation is going to significantly change the situation," said Davies, in London. "It may reduce spam by 10 or 20 percent by stopping spam from the U.S., but so much spamming is done outside the U.S. or anonymously that I dont think spammers will be fazed much by legislation."

Spam is becoming a bigger problem for his organization, Beal said.

"Just in the last six months, weve seen an explosion in spam the likes of which weve never seen before," he said.

Beal has turned to Proofpoint Inc.s spam-blocking software to help ease the situation. He is using Version 1.5 of the companys flagship Proofpoint Protection Server, which was formally announced last week. The software is built on Proofpoints MLX machine-learning technology, which is essentially a set of predictive analytic algorithms that determine if a message is spam.

This version judges messages by as many as 50,000 spam attributes compared with just 10,000 in the previous version of the software, Proofpoint executives, in Cupertino, Calif., said.

In four days of using Version 1.5 of Proofpoint, Beal said he has seen just two spam messages in his in-box compared with eight to 10 spam messages per day using Version 1.2 of the software.

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