Is IT Winning Battle Against Spam?

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About two in five companies report that they're winning their battleagainst spam. And one analyst says it's a battle that companies will beincreasingly winning.

''I think the problem with spam will be solved in relatively shortorder,'' says Michael Osterman, Osterman Research, Inc. based in BlackDiamond, Wa. ''In July we did a survey and 10 percent of organizationssaid spam is a minor problem for them... If you ask that question nextyear, I'd say the percentage will go up to 25 or 30 percent.''

Osterman's optimism, however, may not be very widespread.

Spam set a new record in this past June, accounting for nine out ofevery 10 emails in the United States. Around the globe, spam grew toaccount for 76 percent of all email traveling the Internet, according tostatistics from MessageLabs, Inc., an email management and securitycompany based in New York. That number is up from 60 percent at thebeginning of the year.

Osterman Research conducted two separate studies on email security lastmonth. The survey shows that ''almost all'' organizations have had avirus, worm or other malicious content entered into their networkthrough email. And one in six report getting malware through instantmessaging programs.

The study also finds that IT administrators and email managers say themost serious problems they face -- in order -- are spam, growth in emailstorage requirements, supporting remote users and inadequate emailarchiving.

''If you look at the emphasis of where people are putting their dollars,it's really still very much on spam,'' says Osterman. ''Tools have beenout now with good spam capabilities, but we're finding the performanceof systems getting worse over time.''

Osterman explains that even if a filter is keeping out 95 percent of allspam being sent to email addresses within the company, the amount ofjunk mail getting through is growing every year simply because thevolume of spam being sent is growing. ''Say last year you got a 100,0000messages a day and you captured 95 percent of them, and 5 percent gotthrough,'' says Osterman. ''Now you're getting 125,000 spams a day. That5 percent now represents a larger number of spams getting through --6,250 compared to 5,000 the previous year.''

And Osterman says his survey shows that most IT administrators,particularly those at medium or large companies, say hope of beatingback spam does not lie with legislation. The hope, he says, lies in spamfilters.

Filters are the key to fending off the influx of spam but they only workwell if they are constantly updated, according to Osterman.

''Spam will become less of a problem primarily due to improvements tospam filters,'' he adds. ''I don't think spammers will go away and Idon't think it'll have much to do with legislation.''

But filters aren't something you can implement and forget. ''If youimplement a technology and let it sit there, it will degrade overtime,'' Osterman says. ''You need to update the software, just like youdo with anti-virus programs. The spam capturing efficiency can actuallyget better over time.''

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