IBM Research Joins Fight Against Spam

Officials say a new product called SpamGuru could eliminate virtually all spam.

IBM Corp.s research arm on Friday will debut a new spam filtering test platform called SpamGuru at the first Conference on E-Mail and Spam in Mountain View, Calif.

The new offering will make its way to the enterprise with the release of IBMs Lotus Workplace Messaging 2.0 product later this quarter.

SpamGuru, which is designed to work with other anti-spam products already on the market, is a server-based product that combines a number of spam-blocking techniques that analyze messages by both sender and content, according to IBM officials.

Many of the techniques, including challenge verification, DNS analysis, whitelisting and blacklisting, intelligent rendering of intentionally misspelled words, and Bayesian filtering, are already widely used by current anti-spam technologies. To these, SpamGuru adds a new technique called Chung-Kwei, an automated pattern discovery algorithm used for bioinformatics applications such as gene identification and protein annotation.

The Chung-Kwei algorithm learns from a knowledge base of known spam messages, finding patterns that it then detects in new messages.

"It can detect patterns that are a good indication of spam and determine does a message look like spam," said Isidore Rigoutsos, a researcher in the Bioinformatics and Pattern Discovery Group at IBMs Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

By itself, Chung-Kwei detected 96.56 percent of spam messages with just a .066 percent false positive rate in IBMs labs, officials said. Combined with the other techniques, IBM Research officials believe SpamGuru can eliminate virtually all spam.

"If not completely eliminate spam, we believe we can drastically reduce the scope of the problem," said Mark Wegman, a researcher at the Watson Research Center.

SpamGuru will eventually support a technology IBM calls Charity Seals, which would require an unknown sender to make a payment to a designated charity before being able to send a message to the recipient. This technique and the others would be optional, according to IBM Research officials.

In addition to combining different techniques for catching spam, SpamGuru also automates whitelist and blacklist maintenance, allows for easier configuration to match different user needs and spammer techniques, and gives users control over the level of filtering to further guard against false positives, IBM officials said.

IBM plans to make parts of the SpamGuru technology available in the Lotus Workplace Messaging 2.0 release. Company officials said a decision has not yet been made to include any of SpamGuru in Lotus Domino.

The current 6.5 release of Domino includes basic anti-spam support such as e-mail policy management and whitelist and blacklist management.

CipherTrust Inc. Chief Technology Officer Paul Judge said that while SpamGuru will be another weapon in the fight against spam, he doesnt see the product hurting CipherTrusts relationship with IBM, since SpamGuru works at a different layer of the messaging infrastructure than CipherTrusts IronMail gateway appliance.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK Labs review of IronMail.

"Spam is just one piece of a larger e-mail security problem," said Judge, in Atlanta, noting that IronMail also provided technology for messaging encryption, anti-virus, compliance, and IM security and management.

"We offer a more holistic e-mail security platform."

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