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Anti-spam duty

Paromita Pain

More on the fight against that menace in your mail box - spam.

THE deluge of unsolicited mails is increasing at a rapid pace — much faster than the technology to curb it.

When one opens the mailbox after a weekend or even an ordinary working day, the inbox can show absurd figures of unread mails. The wise ones know that this is no indication of their popularity.

With e-mail forming a significant part of business communications (estimates say it constitutes over 60 per cent of internal as well as external communications), managing mails effectively and efficiently becomes an imperative.

The Chennai-based Aspire Systems says it can help fight spam - with its spam filter, Mail Guard. Its features include, according to the company, automatic filtering of e-mails, notification of progress, spam notification, cleaning existing e-mail folders, managing context stamp derived out of spam e-mails and managing spam senders. The company says a key aim of this product is to increase the productivity of e-mail users.

There are two major problems with respect to spam or unsolicited e-mail. On average, approximately 30 per cent of incoming mail is spam. Before users can focus on important mails, valuable time is spent in identifying and deleting spam to unclutter the inbox. Furthermore, spam uses up precious Net bandwidth, takes up storage space, and cuts into processing time.

Shankar Krishnamoorthy, Vice-President (Development), Aspire Systems, says, "Mail Guard identifies spam mails based on the sender's ID or the context of the mail. If the sender's ID changes but the context of the mail is the same, then the product deletes the spam mails based on the context. The first version of this product is designed to work within Microsoft Outlook. It reduces repeated spam attacks using two different approaches depending on the origination of e-mails and extracting `content stamp' from spam mails and using it in future to check whether an incoming e-mail is a spam."

Kada Rajasekar, who has been using Mail Guard for the last one year, says it has helped manage his mailbox efficiently. "Mail Guard has saved me a lot of productive hours by removing spam e-mail, right when I am downloading mails." The market for anti-spam solutions is huge. Different solutions by the various players use different ways to detect and eliminate spam.

While some work on the server end, others work on the desktop end. The initial version of Mail Guard is designed for the desktop segment.

Ananthanarayanan Krishnamoorthy, project manager, Aspire Systems, says Mail Guard lives up to its claims.

This is targeted at the 25 to 30 age group. They surf and register their e-mail addresses at different Web sites, making them ideal targets for spammers. Mail Guard's Context Stamp' methodology and low cost give it an edge, says Gowri Shankar Subramanian, CEO, Aspire Systems.

The challenges in building the product lay in working with the customer, in clearly defining the specifications and designing the user interface. Since users are generally non-technical people, the focus had to be on usability and the reduction of the number of clicks for each action, among others. "We virtually counted the number of mouse clicks required for an action like marking an e-mail as spam for the first time and experimented accordingly," says Krishnamoorthy.

A satisfied user, Prathap Achutan, a software business development manager, says, "The best thing is that it detects the highest rate of spam without requiring any special configuration."

The product road map consists of many different features and releases and

Subramanian says, "Our immediate focus is to further strengthen the spam detection methodology and approach, besides having a spam repository in the Web for users to sync-in to the latest spam directory on a daily basis. We are also working towards addressing different e-mail platforms such as Outlook Express, Netscape, Lotus Notes and others."

Picture by Nissar Ahmad

paromita@thehindu.co.in

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