Mason Fights Spam with New Filter

Posted: March 10, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

In an effort to stay ahead of spammers – creators of mass-produced, unwanted e-mails – Mason is once again expanding its filtering capabilities.

IronPort will be the latest spam filtering system to be installed at Mason. For the past six weeks, IronPort has been working concurrently with Mason’s previous system, Email Security. On March 17, IronPort will be working as the university’s lone spam catcher.

“Though the previous spam filter worked relatively well, the new filter is much more robust,” says David Robinson, director of the Technology Systems Division at Mason. “IronPort is a modifiable system that will enable us to adjust its filtering parameters to detect current and future spam threats. This feature should make the system an effective spam filter for several years.”

In addition to being used by some of the world’s largest e-mail systems, IronPort is used by many other universities in the region, including Georgetown University, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia.

“Anyone involved in technology is playing a game; When people invent a more advanced spam filter, spammers develop new ways to bypass those filters. It goes back and forth,” Robinson says. “There’s no such thing as the ultimate spam filter, as there is no such thing as the ultimate spam at this point. It’s a game of escalation.”

Robinson points out that extensive testing shows IronPort greatly reduces spam compared to existing anti-spam tools, and it generates almost no false positives — legitimate messages that are misidentified as spam. IronPort should provide immediate, noticeable relief from unwanted e-mails. E-mail users will not need to do anything.

“What our organization is so vigilant about is finding that next best thing to counteract the spam,” Robinson says. “Right now, we’re ahead of the spammers, at least for a little while.”

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