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Permission-Based Filtering Puts Kibosh on Spam

By Jack M. Germain
Apr 2, 2005 1:30 AM PT

The problem with using most spam-blocking programs is they require constant fixing. Creating rules for filtering can be frustrating and annoying, and even downright unreliable.

Permission-Based Filtering Puts Kibosh on Spam

Even when users are diligent about applying rules, the filtering and blocking processes do not always function as promised. Spam-filtering is not an exact science. So some spam gets into in-boxes and some legitimate mail does not.

DigiPortal's ChoiceMail One is a solution that changes the odds in the user's favor. It forgoes traditional spam-filtering protocols for something better. It uses a permission-based spam blocker process that customizes itself to users' preferences.

What It Does

Permission-based means ChoiceMail assumes that incoming e-mail is spam unless the user tells it otherwise. Only approved e-mail gets into users' inboxes.

DigiPortal's latest upgrade of ChoiceMail One brings users improvements in spam-blocking. ChoiceMail 3.0 makes it simpler to handle receipt of newsletters and other trusted bulk bail. It also provides support for virtual e-mail addresses.

ChoiceMail makes it possible to create and edit numerous virtual e-mail addresses from within the program. Users give these temporary addresses to vendors, newsletter publishers and other bulk e-mailers without revealing their real e-mail address.

However, DigiPortal's e-mail solution makes those chores unnecessary. The program admits only approved e-mail to the user's inbox.

In combination with other spam-blocking features, ChoiceMail One eliminates 100 percent of unwanted e-mail while guaranteeing that no legitimate messages are lost.

It can protect multiple POP3 e-mail accounts, IMAP accounts, and Web-based e-mail such as AOL, MSN, Hotmail and Yahoo on Windows-based computers.

How It Works

ChoiceMail approves messages from senders on the user's white list and has built-in mechanisms to block obvious spam. However, the program maintains the whitelist by using a technique not often welcomed by consumers and business users.

When an e-mail is received from a sender not already on the white list, ChoiceMail sends an automatic message asking the sender to verify his or her identity. This allows users to decide which correspondents are approved so they can be added to the white list. Once admitted to the white list, the program automatically approves all future e-mails.

Company officials said they designed ChoiceMail to function this way to prevent users from being locked into a full challenge/response system. Such methods used in other e-mail blocking solutions tend to become unwieldy.

ChoiceMail's approach to maintaining a white list also avoids solutions based on rules or Bayesian Theory filters. Such blocking methods, company officials said, can be circumvented by spammers.

More Isn't Better

To avoid trying to put spam-blocking software through hoops, many people set up multiple e-mail addresses on free services such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail. The spam-filtering features offered by these Internet-based e-mail servers do not usually get any better results in keeping all spam from in-boxes than desktop-based software.

DigiPortal's approach eliminates the need for multiple addresses to conceal users' real e-mail addresses when dealing with online retailers, e-newsletters and other trusted bulk mailers. If a virtual address finds its way to a spammer, the ChoiceMail user can simply throw it away and create a new one.

However, the program supports multiple e-mail addresses so users can continue to use separate addresses for different purposes and still get hard-core anti-spam functionality for all of those addresses in one spam-fighting solution.

"Many e-mail users try to keep spam away from their 'real' address by maintaining separate e-mail addresses just to give to online entities," DigiPortal CTO and founder David Jameson said.

"This forces users to set up extra e-mail accounts they don't really need and sort through piles of junk mail in those accounts to find the few messages they want. With ChoiceMail's support of virtual e-mail addresses, all of that extra effort is no longer necessary."

Gatekeeping Challenges

Typical spam-filtering programs consider the job done when possible spam messages are sent to the trash can.

"Critics of permission-based spam-filtering wrongly say that it places an unfair burden on the sender to get his message through the filtering," DigiPortal Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dan Wallace told TechNewsWorld. "That is not the case with our product."

Once users set up the permissions and get the program running to suit their purposes, only unexpected new senders are challenged. However, users can turn off the challenge and accept all mail.

The program automatically sets permissions to accept mail from anyone to whom users send messages. So only the first message from an unsolicited sender gets a challenge.

"You don't hear from people you don't already know," Wallace said about challenges. "About once every two weeks is the average new challenge rate."

Multiple Solutions

DigiPortal offers different solutions to fight spam for both business and consumer environments. An introductory level product is free. A more feature-rich version is available for general consumer use. An enterprise-strength version is available for businesses that do not have their own mail servers. A full enterprise version serves companies with their own mail servers.

"The non-single user versions were all built up from the same initial product. They all share the same common core base," Wallace said. "The small business edition is actually a hybrid of the enterprise version."

Wallace said the only thing that distinguishes the full enterprise version from the single user and small business versions is the inclusion of Web-based controls to make it easier for IT departments to manage across a network.

Otherwise, the functionality is the same. The single user version has filtering tools as a default. Enterprise users can activate those same options but usually do not need them, Wallace said.

Choices, Prices Defined

The free version is slimmed down considerably from the single-user version. The biggest limitation in the free version is that it only protects one e-mail address.

The single user version works with any standard e-mail program and automatically installs with Outlook, Outlook Express and Eudora. ChoiceMail Enterprise works with Microsoft Exchange Server, Lotus Domino, Novell GroupWise, Imail, SendMail, Netscape and all other enterprise e-mail servers.

A free 14-day trial edition of ChoiceMail is available from www.digiportal.com. The product costs US$39.95, with free upgrades for owners of ChoiceMail One 2.0 or higher.

The business and enterprise versions are available after direct contact with the company.

The pricing structure for the small business and enterprise editions are separated by the number of workstations protected.

The small business license covers five users for $250. Additional users can be added for $50 per extension. The enterprise version covers five users for $350 plus $65 for each additional extension.

Innovative Solution

According to Wallace, DigitPortal's biggest challenge with its permission-based solution is getting people to try it.

"Once they try it, our conversion rate is five or six times higher than other products," he said.

The ChoiceMail One system is easy to use and filled with convenient and effective features. Basically, its "set it and forget it" design keeps unwanted e-mail out of inboxes.

Ultimately, users can put spam mail problems behind them with this challenged response solution.


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