BusinessWeek Looks At Spam Issues

Junk e-mail, unsolicited commercial e-mail, spam. By any other name, it would smell as foul. According to an article at BusinessWeek, itis not about to get any better, despite legislation aimed to lessen the burden we all face. The article looks at laws that have been passed, and predicts that such "scattershot" anti-spam methods will only make spam harder to detect and filter. Server-side spam filters from companies like ClearSwift and BrightMail are looked at, along with the smart filters present in Appleis Mail.app and Netscape/Mozilla Mail, but the author predicts that even these technologies will become less effective as spammers become more deceptive and desperate. From BusinessWeek:

BYPASSING FILTERS. Outfits such as BrightMail claim that they have a technological solution that will sense incoming spam and stop it cold. Apple (AAPL ) and Netscape offer nifty filtering mechanisms that allow a user to "teach" their mail program whatis spam. The program then automatically filters out offending missives.

These approaches, however, quickly become less effective as spammers figure out ways around them. Under the current system, a spammeris cost of sending 1 million e-mail messages is only marginally higher than sending 100. Thatis thanks to the flat-rate system for mail running on the Internet. To counter more pervasive filtering and maintain their click-through rates, spammers have begun to send out significantly more spam. Itis a brute-force play on the mathematical odds, and itis already putting a strain on company mail servers.

The second problem with filtering is that the better it works, the harder it becomes to tell real mail from spam. Hereis the logic: Filtering will eliminate all the most obvious spam from your mail queue. But spammers arenit stupid. They have sophisticated mechanisms for tracking what gets through. Then, they tweak their messages to evade filters. Hence the rise of messages bearing perfectly believable subject lines such as "re: meeting next week" or "lost your e-mail address, please resend."

The full article is available at BusinessWeekis Web site, and is a very interesting, albeit somewhat scary, read.

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