What's the Big Deal about Spam?

If you're in IT, then you know about spam and you know you've got problems, but what can you do that will actually slow down the proliferation of spam? Marty Foltyn offers some tips and suggestions that will filter out unwanted spam and thereby free up much needed storage space.

 By Marty Foltyn
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What's the big deal about spam? If you're asking that question, and you're not referring to the revered Hormel SPAM. meat product, which my family takes along with great ceremony on our summer camping trips, then you probably have not gotten any junk e-mail lately. However, if you're in IT, then you know about spam and you know you've got problems.

I recently talked to a friend of mine, Jim Akin, who manages IT services for Cubic, a defense and transportation systems company. Each time I had seen him over the previous two weeks, he would be muttering about spam, a little like Monty Python's Vikings. So I thought I knew what his answer would be when I asked him which IT problem he would most like to resolve. Sure enough, it was spam.

"About 60 percent of our incoming e-mail is spam," said Akin. "If my staff doesn't block it, not only do our users have to sort and toss that e-mail, but if they don't, my IT staff has to back it up. If we don't get rid of the spam, for every 3 gigabytes of e-mail backup we complete, we waste 2 gigabytes on spam."

Not everyone in Akin's organization gets spam. He tells me it's the people who need to complete transactions on public Web sites, as well as those who innocently click on the "delete me from this list" button at the bottom of spam, unwittingly confirming their e-mail address as valid and guaranteeing themselves more spam than they can possibly imagine.

And it's not just the volume of spam that rolls in or the time and money spent administering and storing it. "Some spam is terrible stuff," Akin said. I can confirm this. While researching this article, I searched on Google for "spam filters." Sure enough, as I clicked down through the list of hits, lurking among the legitimate entries from such spam-fighting vendors as Ciphertrust, Tumbleweed, Postini, Network Associates' McAfee division, Symantec, Brightmail, and Nemx were disguised links to pornography sites that displayed on my screen when I clicked on them.

If a company like Cubic takes steps against spam and establishes anti-spam policies, they will not be open to sexual harassment lawsuits because of pornographic spam. Without these measures, however, they could be vulnerable.

Page 2: What Can You Do?

This article was originally published on Jul 1, 2003
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