Why those critical emails never arrive …
- 12 December, 2006 15:41
<p>SYDNEY, December 12. Few business situations are more frustrating than not receiving emails you know have been sent to you, or arrive too late to be useful. And by far the most common cause for these hold-ups is anti-spam filtering technology, according to anti-spam vendor TotalBlock Pty Ltd.</p>
<p>Give the filter a tight setting and it stops legitimate email: use a more relaxed setting and it lets unwelcome messages through to the in-box.</p>
<p>An Australian PR company included the word ‘spam’ in the address line for a news release. The message failed to reach a certain media group, whose anti-spam filter intercepted it. There is current debate in the USA about messages using the f-word failing to reach their destinations – at least one ISP uses ‘phrase filters’ to cut out email that recipients might find offensive.</p>
<p>Many ISPs use black-lists of known spammers and block email from these sources, although a significant percentage of black-listed sources turn out to be innocent, since the system is flawed. Other anti-spam solutions filter out email identified as coming from ‘zombie’ computers, which are PCs that have been temporarily hijacked by spammers to send out huge volumes of spam.</p>
<p>Ferris Research analyst Richi Jennings says ISPs are increasingly filtering spam without asking permission from users. He adds that if users have no control over the filtering, ISPs must ensure they do not filter too aggressively, so that no legitimate e-mail gets filtered. According to Jennings, “the very best filtering software stops about 95 percent of spam every day while blocking an average of about one legitimate e-mail per customer every month.”</p>
<p>Ken Read, Managing Director of The Alpha School System Pty Ltd (TASS), Brisbane-based educational software vendor, used to start his working day by dealing with unwanted emails for anything between half an hour to a full hour.</p>
<p>He said: “Our previous anti-spam system relied on filtering technology, but it was an all-or-nothing solution. If you opened it wide enough to receive the emails you needed, it let in heaps of rubbish through the door. With TotalBlock we have been able to stop the flow of rubbish, while allowing through all emails from legitimate senders.</p>
<p>Adjusting filters is a continuing problem. Yahoo says it constantly adjusts its screening based on user feedback. Some ISPs, including Telstra, place filtered emails in a spam folder, accessible online. But TotalBlock Chairman, Peter Stewart, believes this solution is far from ideal.</p>
<p>He says: “If people have to search spam folders for important messages they might have missed, how can ISPs claim they are saving customers’ time by reducing spam?”</p>
<p>Tweaking anti-spam filters heads a list of reasons for email disruption. When organisations alter their filter settings, users are often prevented from seeing their inbound email messages for up to 24 hours.</p>
<p>Although many email security products and services provide business continuity by enabling waiting email messages to be queued until they can be delivered, most do not allow network administrators to search for and download individual messages. For some organisations that rely heavily on email, delaying crucial messages costs the business by more than just the cost of lost productivity.</p>
<p>Other common reasons for the disruption of inbound email are:</p>
<p>* Email server mis-configuration.
* Email server crashed.
* Wrong firewall settings.
* MX records changed incorrectly
* Email server running out of free space</p>
<p>Peter Stewart asserts that spam-blocking (challenge/response) technology, like TotalBlock, is far more effective than filtering solutions and eliminates the headaches of ‘lost’ emails.</p>
<p>TotalBlock - www.totalblock.net - is an Australian-developed anti-spam solution that also guards against network overloads caused by storming, harvesting and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. It works by blocking ALL machine-generated unwanted email, using a challenge-response technique rather than commonly used filtering. TotalBlock builds a list of acceptable incoming email senders, using a customer’s address book as well as replying automatically to any emailers who are not on the allowed list. The reply contains a simple action that, when followed, adds the sender to the allowed list. The action can be as simple as replying to the challenge. Since this authorisation process requires human intervention, it bypasses drone machines that spew out huge volumes of spam.</p>
<p># # #</p>
<p>For more information</p>
<p>Peter Stewart or Ben Corby
TotalBlock Pty Ltd
Tel. 61-2-9437 9800</p>
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