• United States

Fighting Spam the Wright way

Mar 18, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalware

* The CAN-SPAM bill gets low marks from SMBs, industry groups

Don’t tell Roger Wright the CAN-SPAM law is working. Wright – systems administrator for Southern Commerce Bank in Tampa Florida – and his 20 users have received 87,000 junk messages since the law went into effect January 1 and the end of February. More than 75,000 of those messages went to Wright and four others. 

Yet, thanks to IHateSpam from Sunbelt Software, only one or two reach Wright’s inbox each day. Nearly all the spam is identified at Wright’s Microsoft Exchange 2003 Server and deleted automatically, or put in a special folder at the client workstation.

Wright filters all mail from 25 of the top spam domains, and creates rules to autodelete mail from others. He’d like to filter mail from free services like HotMail and Yahoo, but too many of the bank’s customers use them.

The client flexibility is why Wright went with IHateSpam. He encourages users to create a blacklist for spam and a whitelist of known good addresses and domains. Employees use shared address books and shared calendars in Outlook and Outlook Express; names in their address books and contact lists are whitelisted automatically. Since Wright runs a Microsoft shop, he wanted a solution partner that works closely with the company, which Sunbelt Software does.

Wright uses the IHateSpam server version, which costs him about $20 per employee, with between $5 and $7 for annual maintenance. He estimates he spends an hour or two each month scanning reports (a feature he really likes) and adjusting filters.

Wright also uses Trend Micro’s ( Scan Mail for Exchange for virus protection, but not spam, preferring the way IHateSpam handles filtering and lets the user go through their own junk mail box. He says letting users handle their own junk sounded much easier than dealing with the server-based quarantined files from every mailbox that Trend Micro sets aside.

Will Microsoft’s improved filtering at the client in Outlook 2003 make Wright switch? “No,” he says. “I still want a server based product. And IHateSpam works too well to change.”

Wright echoes many network administrators who report no benefit from the CAN-SPAM legislation. “I have no hope that politicians will make a difference against junk e-mail,” he says.

Other reports bear out Wright’s pessimism. So far, the CAN-SPAM law gets failing marks from every group studying the issue. Experts have various opinions as to why, but these strike me as important: Spammers are already breaking laws in several states so what’s one more – they can move the source of their spam offshore and out of U.S. jurisdiction. And because it’s an opt-out law, anyone can send messages as long as they offer some type of opt-out mechanism in the message (which they don’t necessarily do).

I highlighted IHateSpam because it’s a good product aimed at small companies. But I also admire Sunbelt’s marketing. My teenage daughter loves Sunbelt’s “Spam Sucks” t-shirt and keeps trying to wear it to school (I filter that).

Of my last 148,433 e-mail messages, 124,892 are spam. That means just over 84% are junk, a number that hasn’t budged since the CAN-SPAM law went into effect. The shirt tells the truth.