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Analysts Shrug at IBM Anti-Spam Release

By Susan B. Shor
Mar 22, 2005 1:33 PM PT

IBM today released a free download of a new spam filtering tool, FairUCE (Fair use of Unsolicited Commercial E-mail), which it admits is not a full-fledged solution but a technology foundation that could one day reach the marketplace.

Analysts Shrug at IBM Anti-Spam Release

Big Blue released the product under its AlphaWorks program in which technology innovations are distributed to developers who sign up as early adopters.

Analysts were underwhelmed.

Nothing New

"From what I can tell, there's nothing really new here," Lydia Leong, principal analyst at Gartner, told TechNewsWorld.

Jonathan Penn, principal analyst, Forrester Research, agreed. "To me, this looks like something IBM tried to develop into a product and didn't see the value, so it is throwing it out the alphaWorks door to whoever wants to play with it," he told TechNewsWorld.

FairUCE works by trying to identify the e-mail sender and decide whether or not the mail is legitimate by checking its IP address against those of known spammers, and uses algorithms to pick out IP addresses that are not yet listed. This approach, IBM said, allows it to figure out which addresses from an ISP or other large domain are legitimate and which aren't.

Return to Sender

When the software finds that a server is sending spam, it bounces the messages back to the originating server in the hopes of slowing it down. If FairUCE cannot determine whether the mail is spam or not, it sends a challenge response back to the sender.

"Challenge response eliminates a lot of spam, but creates a lot of inconvenience," Leong said.

Penn does not like challenge-response systems at all. "Not only is it a pain for legitimate people to have to comply with, but legitimate newsletters get caught in the trap. In other words, it has a high false-positive rate," he said, adding that spammers have already devised ways to fool these systems.

Good Products Exist

Neither Leong nor Penn saw the purpose of the release. "There are tons of pretty good vendors and products that people can be using," Leong said.

"The current leading products and services are doing a fine job of stopping enough spam and making the rest easy to manage. We see lots of contented customers," Penn said.

IBM tied the release to research it did that found that 76 percent of all e-mail sent during February was spam. IBM also said one in 46 e-mails was blocked because it contained some type of malware. IBM said that in January 83 percent of messages were classified as spam.

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