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Editor in Chief

As spam evolves, so do the tools

Sep 27, 20043 mins
MalwareMessaging AppsNetworking

Companies have spam defenses in place that are working for the most part, but with the problem growing worse by the day and evolving along the way it is hard to stay out in front.

That seemed to be the consensus at the launch last week in Atlanta of our technology tour called Strategy and Management for Messaging and Spam. The event was hosted by yours truly and featured keynotes by Network World columnist Mark Gibbs and presentations by Akonix, IronPort, MailFrontier, Sophos and SurfControl.

We also convinced attendees to join us on stage to discuss their real-world experiences, which seemed to vary by vertical market.

Jim Farmer, network systems manager with Atlanta- based Superior Essex, the leading manufacturer of telephone wire, says his company gets 7,000 to 8,000 e-mails per day, 70% of which is spam. Farmer says he tried to fend it off using desktop software but none of it worked well. “Then we moved to a gateway appliance, which made a big difference. We’re much happier today,” he says.

Karl Wiggins, technical services manager at Randall Publishing of Tuscaloosa, Ala., says his company only has 350 e-mail boxes but some weeks gets a million messages, 95% of which are spam. Is he winning the war? “Yes, we’re better off than we were before,” he says.

But Farmer and Wiggins were at the event because spam represents a moving target.

For example, Marc Borbas, global product manager for Sophos, talked about how the spam and virus worlds are colliding, resulting in viruses that turn victims’ machines into spam engines. He says that 30% of spam comes from innocent machines today.

While the industry is making some progress fighting back, Nick Edwards, senior product manager for IronPort, says that Sender ID – backed by Microsoft and others – is useless by itself. IronPort argues you also need to be able to assess the sender’s reputation so you can make intelligent decisions about how to handle incoming mail, all of which the company’s products address.

Everyone in attendance was in agreement that there is no silver bullet. This is a multifaceted problem that is still spinning up. Akonix was sponsoring the show to remind people that spam will only get worse when spammers turn more attention to instant messaging.

User panel member Jonathan White, senior vice president and IT director at Main Street Bank, is looking at just that. He’s doing OK with spam today, he says, and “now we’re turning our attention to IM.”