Vendors bolster antispam packages

More anti-spam vendors are expanding their offerings beyond blocking unwanted e-mail, as FrontBridge Technologies Inc. promotes its disaster-recovery services and MailFrontier Inc. adds fraud protection to its anti-spam software.

FrontBridge, which has provided disaster recovery to customers of its anti-spam, anti-virus and policy enforcement services, is making the service available separately starting at US$345 per month. Recent events, such as Hurricane Isabel and the August blackout, spurred interest in FrontBridge's service, which will queue mail for up to five days when a company's servers are unavailable, says Dan Nadir, vice president of product management. FrontBridge routes clients' e-mail through its eight data centers in the U.S. and Europe.

FrontBridge also announced technology in its anti-spam service that detects spam not by a message's content, but by the originating IP address. Called Real Time Attack Prevention, this addition to FrontBridge's anti-spam service detects IP addresses that send out spam and rejects those messages, Nadir says. It is available to FrontBridge customers at no additional charge. FrontBridge's message hosting services compete with other enterprise offerings such as those from Postini and MessageLabs.

While spammers might be able to mask their identity in an e-mail, they cannot misrepresent the IP address from which they send messages, Nadir says. When FrontBridge detects an IP address sending out large volumes of e-mail and that address is not associated with a valid organization, the service flags the IP address. If FrontBridge sees the only e-mail originating from that address is spam, all incoming mail from that address is rejected, Nadir says.

The service will only block IP addresses that are sending out spam exclusively; e-mailers at IP addresses that send some spam and some legitimate e-mail will not be flagged to avoid blocking wanted mail, Nadir says. "This tool is only useful for really egregious spam houses that are pumping out millions of e-mails all day," he says. Nonetheless, these spammers are responsible for the majority of junk e-mail received today.

MailFrontier, which develops anti-spam client and gateway software, is expanding its repertoire with the addition of anti-fraud software to its Matador 3.5 client program.

The software employs a number of methods to detect fraudulent e-mails, messages sent under the guise of a valid company that include a form or that direct recipients to a Web site where they're asked to input personal information, such as bank account or Social Security number, so their identity can be stolen. Matador examines incoming e-mail for indicators of fraud, such as included links to an invalid Web site or e-mails with embedded forms for recipients to fill out, says Gleb Budman, MailFrontier's director of product management. If enough indicators exist, a message will be sent to the user's fraud folder.

As more e-mail fraud is committed, more anti-spam vendors will add anti-fraud capabilities to their offerings, says Masha Khmartseva, a senior analyst with The Radicati Group. "We're just at the very beginning; [e-mail fraud] is going to be a big trend," she says.

But technology alone won't solve the problem. "You have to educate your users" about these kinds of threats, she says, adding that most users aren't sophisticated enough to tell when e-mail is truly coming from a company vs. when a spammer is masquerading as a company.

MailFrontier's anti-spam gateway competes with products from Brightmail Inc., Tumbleweed Communications Corp. and Cloudmark Inc. The company's Matador desktop software competes with programs from ContentWatch Inc., Sunbelt Software Inc. and others.

Matador 3.5 will be available in November for US$29.95. MailFrontier plans to add an anti-fraud module to its gateway software late this year or early next year.

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