ActiveState launches antispam task force

ActiveState, a company focusing on a variety of open source-based enterprise software, has launched an antispam task force that it hopes will generate interest for its antispam product and ideas for other projects in the open-source community.

The company announced its Anti-Spam Research Task Force Monday, using four researchers ActiveState calls the "strongest innovators" in antispam, including Jason Rennie, author of the open-source tool, iFile, and Tim Peters, developer of the SpamBayes Bayesian filter.

Jesse Dougherty, development director at ActiveState, admitted that the company hopes to promote its PureMessage antispam product with the task force, but it also intends to author white papers and incorporate some of its findings into the open-source projects its researchers work on.

ActiveState is attacking the spam problem a bit differently than a couple of other antispam groups, Dougherty said. The Internet Research Task Force is looking for long-term remedies for spam by considering the structure of the Internet, while the JamSpam coalition is more of a discussion group.

Both groups seem to be focusing on vendor authentication, Dougherty said. "Our view, because our customers are enterprises, is the one thing that's left out of both of these other groups is content," he said. "Is this message acceptable to me, based on my acceptable-use policy? Our take on it, from an enterprise admin point of view, is that spam is the result of the admin being unable to enforce an acceptable-use policy at their e-mail gateway."

The ActiveState group will focus on filtering content and creating content tools for enterprise businesses, Dougherty said. "Getting something that works now and gives companies more control ... is very important," added Rennie.

Another way to fight spam is through antispam laws, but Rennie and Dougherty agreed that such efforts have had mixed results. "Spammers ... are good at finding loopholes, finding cracks, doing everything they can to get through the law," Rennie said. "That's what they know best. As the laws keep catching up to them, they'll keep fishing their way through the legal system. The legal aspect is just one tool, but you need other tools that will let you stop these people."

ActiveState expects to incorporate some of the findings of the task force into its PureMessage product by late April, and members of the group may begin speaking at public conferences by then.

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