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In the Year 2005, Will Your Anti-Spam Arsenal Be the Same?

In the Year 2005, Will Your Anti-Spam Arsenal Be the Same?
March 24, 2003

Anti-spam solutions are gaining visibility these days as big name vendors start to make more of a splash. Trend Micro issued an anti-spam announcement this month and Computer Associates (CA), Symantec, and Network Associates are expected to follow in the near future with announcements of their own.

Most commercial products actually on the market, though, are still from smaller, specialized start-ups. Meanwhile, some administrators are trying to save money for their organizations by turning to free solutions. A couple of years from now, will you still be relying on the same anti-spam strategy you're using today?

Quite possibly not. By then, spam will have undoubtedly become an even larger problem than it is today. According to a recent survey by Symantec, 37 percent of respondents already receive more than 100 spam messages each week at work and at home.

Drawn by the beacon of customer demand in a bleak economy, major commercial vendors are hitting the market from a number of different angles, typically with new or enhanced "converged" products that combine spam fighting capabilities with antivirus or Web page filtering or both, while smaller vendors are striving to make a mark with unique bells-and-whistles like honeypots, collaborative filtering, and "e-mail challenges."

Features Trickling Up from Freeware

In fact, some of the technologies now showing up in commercial products and services have trickled their way up from freeware counterparts. For instance, Vipul's Razor, a free collaborative network for spam detection and filtering, forms the basis for Cloudmark's commercial product.

Even if you're unable or unwilling to spend a dime, there are countless anti-spam tools to choose from. Aside from SpamAssassin, a multi-featured anti-spam gateway written in Perl, popular freeware tools include Groovy Blackhole, a free spam and virus filter for all major SMTP servers, and SMTPblock, a tool for detecting SMTP relays on Unix /Linux servers, for example.

If you have money in your budget, the possibilities open up even more, although many of the new commercial offerings are only a few months old and others haven't even left the gates yet.

This month, antivirus maven Trend Micro unveiled Spam Prevention Service (SPS), a subscription-based service that integrates anti-spam logic from Postini. Already shipping for Sun Solaris servers, SPS is expected to become available for Microsoft Windows by May and for Linux by June.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, Network Associates -- the producer of McAfee antiviral software -- purchased anti-spam maker Deersoft, with integrated products expected to follow shortly. New anti-spam offerings are reportedly under development at Symantec and Computer Associates as well.

CA's upcoming product, eTrust Content Control, is now in beta. The new software initially combines e-mail and Web page scanning, but CA is considering integrating anti-viral capabilities in the future, too, says Ian Hameroff, CA's security strategist. (One of the existing members of CA's eTrust family is eTrust AntiVirus.)

A Web page scanning specialist called SurfControl has jumped into anti-spam and anti-viral filtering for e-mail. In terms of shipping products, SurfControl is currently "the only company with credible solutions for both e-mail and Web scanning," according to Maureen Grey, research analyst at the GartnerGroup.

"Although the rules-crafting language and management tools are consistent, these are still two distinct products," the Gartner analyst added.

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