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Spam filtering nears breakdown point, cautions expert

  • 29 January, 2007 09:48

<p>SYDNEY, January 29. Spam filtering technology ceases to be effective when 30 or more junk emails a day arrive in a user’s in-box, according to data security expert Peter Stewart.</p>
<p>He believes that small to medium businesses as well as private and public sector enterprises across Australia are nearing the critical point because of the high volumes of spam they are receiving. According to Stewart, who is Chairman of TotalBlock Pty Ltd, between 75 and 95 per cent of email directed at Australians is spam. He attributes the variation to users’ Internet profiles – the more visible they are, the more spam they receive.</p>
<p>Global anti-spam solution vendors say spam volumes rose between 100 per cent and 120 per cent in 2006, with worse to come in 2007.</p>
<p>TotalBlock puts spam levels into three categories: none, trickle (2-3 a day) and flood (30 or more a day). Stewart says junk email is a nuisance up to 2-3 per day, then some automation is required to deal with higher volumes. This usually takes the form of spam-filtering systems.</p>
<p>Stewart says that nine out of ten emails received by users in the ‘flood’ category need to be marked, filtered, re-directed, quarantined and possibly archived.</p>
<p>“Such high volumes are straining the system because a filter has to take action on each mail it determines to be unwanted. This stresses computing resources while requiring recipients to take some action. Because the email might have come from a source that has sent mail before, the receiver cannot ignore it. Efforts to check mail increase exponentially as the volumes grow.”</p>
<p>He explains: “Filtering was designed to counter junk email when people were receiving between zero and nuisance levels. But today there are real problems for users in the flood category, who are finding that filtering is no longer viable. Filtering systems put suspect mail into a quarantine folder, which the user must check for false positives. Most don’t; they simply hit ‘select all, delete’ and the false positives are swept away with the junk emails.”</p>
<p>He is convinced that a viable alternative to filtering lies in the challenge-response (blocking) method of dealing with spam, as used by growing numbers of vendors including TotalBlock. There is no limit to the volumes of spam challenge-response can handle because a user deals only with wanted email and any legitimate user can answer the challenge, thereby enabling their mail to get through. This is one-off activity, so email from an allowed sender will always get through.</p>
<p>“For a few dollars a week per user, challenge-response can save time lost in dealing with spam - worth hundreds of dollars a week for medium-sized organisations, and thousands a week for enterprise level users,” says Stewart.</p>
<p>“Our clients come to us when their filtering systems break down – at a point where the effort involved in dealing with spam has reached a critical level and the spam barrage is relentless. Spam represents more than a just a nuisance for countless users because it incurs a business cost in efforts to manage it. We find that people often look to challenge-response only as a final resort, not because it’s ineffective, but because it is little known and understood.”</p>
<p>He asserts that when users receive more than 30 junk emails a day, challenge-response technology leaves an organisation well ahead in dollar terms.</p>
<p>About TotalBlock</p>
<p>TotalBlock - www.totalblock.net - is an Australian-developed anti-spam solution that also guards against network overloads caused by storming, harvesting and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. It works by blocking ALL machine-generated unwanted email, using a challenge-response technique rather than commonly used filtering. TotalBlock builds a list of acceptable incoming email senders, using a customer’s address book as well as replying automatically to any emailers who are not on the allowed list, and no further emails are challenged. The reply contains a simple action that, when followed, adds the sender to the allowed list. The action can be as simple as replying to the challenge. Since this authorisation process requires human intervention, it bypasses drone machines that spew out huge volumes of spam.</p>
<p># # #</p>
<p>For more information</p>
<p>Peter Stewart or Ben Corby
TotalBlock Pty Ltd
Tel. 61-2-9437 9800</p>

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