Issues to Consider when Implementing Anti-Spam Systems

Spam can be a nuisance for users, webmasters and the systems they run on. This type of unwanted and unsolicited mail can implant viruses, spyware and other types of malicious code unknowingly onto a user’s computer or simple be an annoyance. As technology progresses, the spam blocking and filtering systems have greatly improved.

Numerous Problems to Consider

Most web hosting providers and Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) have extensive systems in place to ensure spam doesn’t clog their systems. Aside from the time and cost to install and maintain the systems, there are many other potential issues with anti-spam systems. For instance, messages blocked in error, accidental blacklisting of an Internet address, accuracy of spam filters, consensus-based filtering system, and issues with white lists.

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Spam Filters

A common issue amongst spam filters is those messages blocked in error. Organizations send high-volume messages to their employees but they are not spam. If they are blocked, the ISP will most likely receive a complaint from both the sender and recipient. Specific communications that were never received could end in financial losses resulting in major lawsuits.

Accidental Blacklisting

Another common problem is the accidental blacklist of a specific Internet address. When a large volume of spam is sent from a specific address or group of addresses, these will be placed on a blacklist within spam filters. If these addresses are part of a user’s ISP, they may not be able to send emails to those whose ISP’s are blocking those addresses.

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An additional concern is the accuracy of the spam filters. Many users utilize Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail and other free Internet-based email services. These providers offer spam filtering that identify spam and separate it from legitimate emails. Unfortunately, these don’t block 100% of spam emails since spammers are constantly discovering different methods for moving past the filters. Consequently the user still must weed through many messages.

Consensus Filtering

The consensus model can also cause issues. With this type of filtering system, users that receive messages they consider to be spam will report them to a centralized entity. If enough users report a specific message as spam, it will be flagged and blocked. Since there are many grey areas as to what is considered spam, some may not receive important messages. This system is far from perfect.

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White Listing

Finally, there are many issues with white lists, which inform the filtering program to allow specific email through based on the source of the message. Individuals can also add their lists to the central bank. Although this method often helps to eliminate spam, it is prone to falsification and spoofing.

Spam filtering systems and methods are far from perfect. While they do help eliminate the majority of spam, there are still many problems that need to be addressed to ensure total security. Spammers continue to find methods around spam blockers, but as technology progresses and security tightens, spam filters will become more effective.

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