Fighting spam.

Position:Viewpoint
 
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IDC

During the past two years, IDC has tracked huge increases in the volume and complexity of Spam. Despite the availability of many approaches to detecting Spam, it continues to plague email users. Antispam solutions that were considered effective a year ago based on their ability to block as many as 90 out of every 100 Spam messages may no longer be considered effective when the actual number of Spam messages reaching email user inboxes rises rather than falls due to the higher volumes of Spam being sent by spammers. To reduce Spam in real terms, antispam solutions need to detect more Spam by identifying and blocking new forms of Spam in real time, during the first few minutes of an outbreak. Recurrent Pattern Detection, a technology used by several server software, server appliance, and client software vendors and their customers, provides real-time proactive detection of Spam regardless of content, language, or format.

What Is Spam?

Spam is "unsolicited bulk email" sent by both legitimate direct marketers offering commercial products and services and less reputable firms and individuals offering illicit offensive, and even nonexistent products and services or using email to deliver viruses. "Bulk email" refers to the automated broadcast of high volumes of Spam.

Spam Trends

Spam has been a major problem for service providers for several years. However, for most organizations, it has only recently emerged as a high-priority problem requiring high-priority attention and resources.

Prior to 2002, companies and other organizations considered Spam more of a nuisance than anything else. They considered the volumes of Spam received to be manageable through the use of the Delete key, simple keyword email filters to delete or folder suspected Spam, and real-time blackhole lists (RBLS) to block known sources of Spam. Corporate IT departments were too busy with other projects, including battling viruses and other malicious code capable of bringing down entire networks and damaging servers and personal computers, to invest time and money in fighting Spam.

What a difference two years make. The volume of Spam sent worldwide every day will jump from 7 billion in 2002 to 17 billion in 2004, according to IDC estimates. Spam has grown into too difficult and costly a problem for most IT departments to ignore or leave to email users. Fighting Spam can be very time consuming and is best handled by experts who spend all of their time and resources focused on developing even more effective ways to block it. Moreover Spam will contain more non-English language content as the majority of Spam will be sent to email users outside North America by 2005 (see Figure 1).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Spammers

Spammers are motivated by the money to be made in selling legitimate or illegitimate products and services through spam and in delivering spam on behalf of their customers. Before most organizations deployed antispam solutions over the past two years, spammers had little difficulty in sending spam Life has become more difficult for spammers, but the financial incentive has pushed spammers to be very aggressive and creative in developing new forms of spam that can evade detection. These include spoofing email addresses, constantly changing spam content, incorporating random and innocent text, and replacing text with images to fool content analysis and other spam detection technologies-Spammers take advantage of their ability to deliver a sizable portion of their spam broadcasts to email user inboxes before most antspam solutions are able to recognize and begin detecting new forms of spam.

Service Providers

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