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SpamAssassin Takes Top Anti-Spam Honors

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Receiving twice as many votes as the closest contender, SpamAssassintook top honors in the Anti-Spam category of Datamation's Product of theYear 2005 Awards.

SpamAssassin, an open source spam filter, easily outdistanced itscompetitors in the finalist round of the annual reader-based contest.Webroot Software, Inc.'s SpySweeper Enterprise had a strong showing asthe runner up. Other finalists included Cloudmark, Inc.'s CloudmarkImmunity; NetIQ Corp.'s NetIQ MailMarshal SMTP; MessageLabs Ltd.'sMessageLabs Anti-Spam, and Sophos Inc.'s Sophos PureMessage.

''[SpamAssassin] doesn't just save us money. It makes us money,'' saysJeremy Howard, CEO of FastMail.FM, an Australia-based email provider withmore than half a million customers. ''We know from direct feedback thatcustomers are upgrading their accounts because of our SpamAssassinimplementation.''

SpamAssassin is under the umbrella of the Apache Software Foundation, anon-profit group that provides organization, along with legal andfinancial support for many open source projects. SpamAssassin is used bycorporate, academic and home users as a stand-alone spam filter, but italso is integrated into other products, such as appliances and emailservers.

The winner in the Anti-Spam category uses techniques such as blacklistchecking, content analysis, header analysis, and collaboratespam-tracking database checking to weed out spam.

Anti-spam products are increasingly important to the enterprise asunsolicited bulk email continues to hammer corporate inboxes, mailservers and IT workers. MessageLabs, an anti-virus and anti-spam company,reported last year that spam now accounts for nine out of every 10 emailsin the United States. In 2003, spam made up 55 percent of all U.S. email,but it easily surpassed the 80 percent mark last year.

And that deluge of spam is taking a toll.

Industry analysts largely agree that spam not only distracts workers andwastes productivity, but it also drives IT managers to use theiralready-tightened budget money on extra mail servers and personnel whoseonly job is to deal with the flood of unwanted email.

''As an email provider, it's our job to make sure that our customers getall the email they want, but only the email they want,'' says Howard, whostarted using SpamAssassin three years ago. ''Simple message blocking atour mail server is not an option, since it could block some messages thatour customers wanted to receive, so we had to find a solution that letcustomers 'choose' what they wanted to block.''

Howard explains that SpamAssassin provides a statistical score, whichcustomers use to make decisions about which messages should be discarded,which ones should be filed away and which ones to keep. ''Customersfrequently tell us how happy they are now that their inboxes contain lessspam, without throwing away any of the messages that they want toreceive,'' he adds.

Daniel Quinlan, vice president of Apache SpamAssassin, says their productstands out because it's a wide-spectrum solution.

''It uses a wide variety of local and network tests to identify spam,''says Quinlan. ''It makes it hard for spammers to identify any one singlething they can change in their email to get around the filter... Plus,it's free software, so obviously that's attractive.''

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