FIGHTING EMAIL SPAM ON THE INTERNET [Review]

POSTINI: FIGHTING EMAIL SPAM ON THE INTERNET [Review]

[Review] POSTINI: FIGHTING EMAIL SPAM ON THE INTERNET Background To paraphrase an old Mark Twain quotation – “Everybody talks about [spam] but nobody does anything about it.” There was a time, only several years ago, that Internet users were able to receive email using their programs such as Eudora, Microsoft Outlook Express, and others – and receive only legitimate messages. … But that has all changed, and spam is increasing rapidly to a very worrisome level. Users are receiving as much as 99% of their email messages as spam, known as UCE (unsolicited commercial email), “junk email” or advertisements for everything from investments to pornography. To make matters even worse, viruses now show up via email on a regular basis weekly (almost daily) that will wreck the typical PC unless it is protected with an anti-virus program such as Norton or McAfee. In addition to being annoying, businesses are being hit with spam that is costing them hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) of dollars to either block or remove spam – and that time can be measured in lost dollars. Brightmail, an anti-spam company that claims it includes 8 of the 11 largest ISPs as clients, has said that for some ISPs and corporations, spam makes up more than 50% of their total email. Brightmail also says they are seeing an average 50 to 100 million spam messages per day. — Jupiter Media Metrix has estimated that each Internet user received 571 spam messages in 2001, and by 2006 expects that number to rise to 1,500 per year. According to a 2001 European Union study, spam’s total costs to users now total $8.6 billion a year worldwide. (Spam will be banned in Europe beginning next year.) — A Radicati Group study shows that the anti-spam and content filtering products industry could double to $180 million and $1.2 billion by 2006, as more and more corporations demand anti-spam protection software. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an inept agency at best, after hearings during 2001, says it is unable to help stem the flow unless the spam involves “deceptive marketing practices”. Thus far, in spite of FTC’s political grandstanding, the FTC has only prosecuted 30 spam cases. – Thank you very much. This is a federal agency we don’t need. Congress, which proposed several anti-spam bills in the House and Senate last year, has simply pigeonholed the bills in committees since 9-11. Since many of the direct marketing lobbies in Washington also contribute to many of these Congressmen’s political campaigns – Congress is just as inept on the spam subject too. No new legislative activity on spam has taken place in Congress this year. So far, 25 states have passed some form of anti-spam legislation – largely ineffective. In our own case, 99% of our company email was spam – something had to be done. Enter Postini. About Postini Postini is a unique anti-spam filtering program and service that is only available to ISPs and corporate or large organization mail servers. Postini blocks (filters) the spam -before- it gets to the user provider’s mail server. Our own ISP, Amerion LLC, is a Postini client, offering full anti-spam services. A search engine inquiry on anti-spam will turn up over a million hits. Many of these are for PC installed anti-spam programs – which either do not work or work well, and must be constantly updated. (Remember the fiasco with childrens’ anti-porn filtering software? One cannot rely on filtering words alone.) Postini uses “an advanced filtering technique built on heuristic values” – meaning it is always evolving and learning more. Users with Postini can safely use their email programs which automatically downloads filtered (both Eudora and Microsoft Outlook Express) incoming email messages, as well as upload queued outgoing messages (which are not filtered at this time). Status messages are also sent to the end-user with the number of questionable spam messages being held by Postini’s Message Center. Many users, such as this author, prefer to make a three-stop check of incoming mail. – First with Postini’s Message Center to check if any legitimate messages were caught, and to delete unwanted messages; Secondly, to access mail2web.com to check the list of incoming messages that were delivered to the mail server by Postini and delete any unwanted messages; and Third, to actually activate the PC mail program to receive wanted messages only. By either route, the user is also being protected by McAfee AVERT antivirus protection -before- it gets to the mail server. Suspected or actual messages containing viruses can be read on Postini without activating the virus. A message is also sent to the end-user when a suspected virus has been detected. About Amerion LLC and Getting Postini Amerion LLC, one of North America’s largest independent Internet Service Providers (ISP), offers Postini anti-spam/anti-virus protection. Users may select to protect a single email address; several email addresses (mailboxes); portions of a domain name; or all of a domain name. (This review was based on protection of all mail addresses on the complete domain name.) The user will be sent an authentication notification by the ISP showing that their Postini protection is active, then allowing the user to reset the password (for Postini only), and set control panel features as to the level of filtering desired. (We recommend maximum filtering capability.) The anti-virus protection is automatic and continuously updated with the latest anti-virus definitions list. Amerion’s pricing for Postini reflect typical ISP charges:

Services Per Included Additional Maximum Gigs

Domain Filters Filters Email Filters per Month

Personal

Domains $5.00 2 $1.00 10 0.5

Business

Domains $10.00 5 $1.00 300 1

Organizational

Control $25.00 20 $1.00 Unlimited 5

For further Amerion information contact: Amerion LLC, 1828 W. Lewis Street, Pasco, WA 99302. Telephone: (877) 518-1005 or (509) 547-2781. Fax: (509) 547-4463. URL: http://www.amerion.com Postini Features When users login to Postini’s Message Center, the Web page is a control panel. From that point on the user is completely in charge. Users can switch between three lists: Quarantined, Removed, and Delivered. Messages can be deleted individually or all at once. The Email Delivered page will show all messages recently delivered to the user’s mail server (these are listed for 2 days). Sender List – add and approve known addresses which will not be filtered. Removed Messages are automatically deleted on a periodic basis (about 14 days). Users initially set the level of filtering (maximum recommended) for junk mail blocking, and spam filters. These levels may be reset at any time by the user. Blocked Senders – permits the blocking of unwanted senders by adding them to a list. All controls, including password, may be changed at any time by the user. Pricing and Availability Pricing and availability for those that use an ISP should be directed to the ISP for further information. – Not all ISPs offer Postini, but may wish to do so. For ISPs, corporate, or organizations that have their own mail servers or provide email service contact: Postini Corporation, 510 Veterans Blvd., Redwood City, CA 94063-1122. Telephone: (650) 482-5130. URL: http://www.postini.com (Prices may vary or be unique for independent organizational mail servers with direct services from Postini.) For further Postini Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) see http://www.postini.com/products/faq.html Conclusion The Postini approach to spam filtering is one that is welcome – and works! During a 16-day test period we received a total of 891 email messages, of which 76% were blocked or filtered by Postini. In addition, 5 messages were blocked that contained viruses. – That is an excellent score. While most ISPs block spamming emanating from their service, many do not, since they consider it part of their revenues. – That has to change. When one of my sons first activated his MSN dial-up account, his mailbox already contained 50 or more spam messages. – Just the appropriate sort of thing to pop up on your screen when children are present. – We do not recommend MSN or AOL services. What is needed in the U.S. is a “universal opt-out” list of “do not call” addresses and numbers that anyone can sign-up for – -once-. – It would be impossible to “opt-out” of spammers individually one at a time. – “Opt- out” legislation is needed at the federal level with -no- exceptions given to lobbyists or the direct mail industry. Users are also warned not to respond to spam messages to opt-out because that will only put the user on -more- spam lists. Contrary to the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) perspective, spam is not protected by First Amendment rights, and similar direct advertising has been banned under Supreme Court rulings. – The DMA is treading a dangerous path in its guidelines to its constituency. This “dangerous path” route that DMA advocates will be addressed and included in our series of editorials, beginning with this issue’s “Indiscriminate Advertising” – which includes spam, the media (i.e. TV, multimedia, software, etc.), pharmaceutical products, autos, flyers, magazines and other periodicals – all not in the public interest. Viruses are another concern that are addressed as part of Postini’s anti-spam service. Doug McLean, Postini vice president told us, “Filtering viruses used to be a pretty straight-forward business. You opened up all the attachment headers, checked to see if any executables had been embedded in the header and made a classification based on that. Klez changed that game pretty substantially. Not only does Klez change form as it migrates through the net with different message headers, attachments, senders, etc., it also has the ability to disguise its presence in an otherwise legitimate file.” To sum up this review of Postini, we recommend its use from personal to organizational use for all Internet users. The fact that spam and viruses are being filtered -before- getting to the mail service provider’s mail server is the key to the spam/virus solution. The next step is not voting for those elected officials who can see no wrong with spam. Thank you Postini. [RSH]

COPYRIGHT 2002 Information Intelligence, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group