At a recent international conference, the International Telecommunications Union, an agency of the UN, reported that up to 85% of all email on the internet is Spam - commercial, unsolicited email.
Because of the borderless nature of the internet, stopping spam through law enforcement is a slow and difficult process (see 'Global War on Spam' story in this edition), so in trying to deal with the flood, most people are forced to turn to a technology solution.
Internetrix is proud to announce that from this month, we have an anti-spam service available to our clients which is a departure from the usual attempts at providing a solution to the spam epidemic. Our solution, known as a "challenge-response" method of combating spam, is less common and more reliable than the more widely used - and abused - filtering method which has resulted in a form of 'arms race' between spammers and filtering companies.
Spammers almost always lie about who they are. The reasons for this are fairly obvious; in Australia, the USA and a number of other countries, sending spam is now a criminal offence, punished by large fines and the possibility of jail time if caught. From a practical perspective, when you send out a few million emails to addresses you've illegally gathered, you're likely to get quite a few 'bounce' messages from invalid email addresses - if spammers had these come back to them, they'd flood their own systems.
For these two reasons, when you reply to an email from a Spammer, they're not there. They've already moved on, hoping that you click on their advert to make them some money.
The Challenge-Response method relies on this simple, human fact to determine what's spam and what isn't. When the server receives an email from a new address, it shoots back a short and polite email (you can customise the message) asking the sender to confirm their identity as a real person, since it's the first time you've heard from them, and once they've validated, they are never challenged again. If they're really there, they click on a single link and their email is delivered to you. Spammers never recieve your email or click on the link, so the spam gets caught before you see it.
This approach has a few big advantages over filtering, the other main way of stopping spam. Filtering is a technology that reads each email, and using a series of impressive and complicated algorithms approaching artificial intelligence, tries to work out if the email is actually spam. The problem with this approach is the 'false positives', emails that are marked as bad and sent straight to your trash when they're really from an important customer or other legitimate contact.
Filtering is in many ways the first 'arms race' of the new century. On one side are hundreds of determined, well paid and well equipped spammers who continue to outsmart the filtering companies, who then tweak their algorithms, and so the process continues. Unfortunately, this approach has been going for the last few years, and the spam problem is still there and ever present. The other down-side is that it's expensive - these complex calculations on the thousands of emails that zip around a mail system each day means expensive computers, and most filtering companies charge around a $10 per-mailbox fee for email filtering services.
If you'd like to secure your email account using our new anti-spam hosting add-on, don't hesitate to reply to this email or give our office a call. We're offing the service for a discounted setup price of $200, which includes setting up the service, loading in your default 'whitelist' of trusted contacts and training a company representative on how to use the administrative control panel for the service. Be quick - this discounted setup offer is only valid until the end of August!