Prevention Is the Best Medicine: Creating an Anti-spam Strategy

The tension is growing by the month. Each time one side makes a move, the other counters. These aren't earth shattering frontal attacks and counter thrusts, however. They are subtle and incremental, based on a wary knowledge of how a clever enemy tries to outsmart its adversary.

There's no denying spam is a pervasive and tricky problem that continues to proliferate. From an enterprise perspective, the strongest cure for spam is prevention. This tutorial outlines a variety of spam prevention tactics -- from specific products to general techniques -- that can be taken on the mail server, desktop, ISP, or network edge level.

No, this isn't Iraq vs. the United Nations' weapons inspectors. It's spam vs. anti-spam forces.

Spam, which has been a background nuisance for years, is exploding. And based on the studies and reports released on a near daily basis, it's close to impossible to ignore.

Anti-spam software vendor Brightmail is one such company that tracks spam. It follows the proliferation of attacks on its "Probe Network," which it says has a statistical reach of 200 million e-mail boxes. According to Brightmail's findings, spam on the network nearly tripled -- from about 1.97 million to 5.5 million spam messages -- between November 2001 and November 2002. This increase is even more pronounced when one considers that as recently as June 2001 the network logged fewer than 1 million spam messages. That's more than a five-fold increase in less than 18 months. Other vendors and analysts provide equally stark statistics.

Unique Spam Attacks June 2001 to November 2002
(as Measured by Brightmail's Probe Network


Fighting spam is tricky for a number of reasons. First, spammers are exceedingly clever. Second, and even more critically, spam fighters have a double task: Not only must they identify spam, but they must also do so without harming legitimate mail. "Many products are not truly effective," Daniel Silver, the director of marketing for Lyris Technologies, told ServerWatch. "The other issue is false positives, which is grabbing things that shouldn't be grabbed."

This article was originally published on Jan 9, 2003
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