School District Takes Hands-Off Approach to Fighting Spam

The School District of Cambridge, in Cambridge, Wis., uses FrontBridge Technologies' TrueProtect service to expel spam.

Robin Jarlsberg has sole responsibility for all the technology at the School District of Cambridge, in Cambridge, Wis., so she needed a set-it-and-forget-it anti-spam solution.

The school district is a small K-12 institution about 20 miles east of Madison, with a user population of about 160 teachers, administrators and other staff members. The district does not provide students with e-mail services.

As SDCs only technology administrator, Jarlsberg needed an anti-spam system that would get rid of what was amounting to about 18,000 spam messages per month but would not require lots of handholding.

SDC receives about 76,000 e-mail messages per month, which meant that spam was accounting for 24 percent of the e-mail load. This is not the worst spam case eWEEK Labs has encountered, but it was still presenting a big problem for e-mail users in the district—and for Jarlsberg.

"I wanted a product that got rid of our spam—that was it," said Jarlsberg. "I didnt want to deal with it, and I didnt want staff to have to deal with it. I just wanted something that I could say, OK, take away our spam, and thats it, and thats what we got."

A little more than a year ago, SDC implemented FrontBridge Technologies Inc.s TrueProtect anti-spam service, declining the available FrontBridge anti-virus filtering because SDC e-mail is already filtered by WiscNet, the districts Internet service provider. For $1 per user mailbox per month, Jarlsberg gets the anti-spam protection her users need while adding only about 10 minutes per month to her workload. "Once a month, I go into the system and delete all the spam," she said.

During eWEEK Labs 2003 anti-spam eValuation, Jarlsberg voiced the most radical approach to dumping spam of any of the participants: "If its junk, I just want it gone," she said at the time.

Indeed, Jarlsberg recently told eWEEK Labs that there isnt a lot of gray area at SDC when it comes to e-mail. SDCs e-mail communication is primarily conducted among internal staff members and a few external vendors. SDC users are spread out across three buildings.

Jarlsberg said TrueProtect has done a good job of filtering the spam her users were receiving. The districts users dont have access to quarantined mail, but Jarlsberg said she is confident the e-mail that is being automatically sent to the bit bucket in the sky is trash. "Its a time waster to look at junk," she said. "The only feedback Ive gotten from users is, Thank you for making the spam go away."

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about how other schools are fighting spam.

E-mail for SDC is provided through a Web-based interface that connects to WiscNets e-mail service. There is no e-mail client on district users machines, and SDC does not maintain an e-mail infrastructure. SDC was reviewing the FrontBridge system at the time of eWEEKs anti-spam eValuation. By the time WiscNet had decided on an anti-spam system that it would make available to its customers, SDC had been using TrueProtect for months.

Jarlsberg said implementing TrueProtect took only a phone call to WiscNet to order a simple MX record change.

Jarlsberg didnt tell users at first that their e-mail was going through an anti-spam system. To district users, she said, it appeared that spam simply went away one day.

After several weeks, however, Jarlsberg sent a note to district staff. She provided information on spam, let them know that a new system was filtering their mail and told them what to do if a piece of junk e-mail made it through the filter.

"Theres no micromanagement here," Jarlsberg said. "I gave them an e-mail address at FrontBridge to forward spam to. I havent dealt with a single piece of spam sent to an end user."

Jarlsberg conceded that no system is perfect, but she said her users have yet to complain about the phishing campaigns that eWEEK Labs has seen occurring on a wide scale in other organizations.

Jarlsberg said she has received a couple of e-mail messages from staff members reporting spam in their in-boxes. However, upon review, it turned out that the "spam" messages were newsletters the staff members had signed up to receive—whether they intended to or not. "If a person signs up, then its not spam," said Jarlsberg.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at cameron_sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.

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