IBM takes aim at spam

Update: Spammers could soon be thwarted by an anti-junk email tool developed by IBM

IBM joined the battle against spam on Tuesday when it launched FairUCE — a software product it claims can stop eighty percent of junk email.

Rather than examining the content of an email to see if it is spam, FairUCE attempts to match an email's purported domain with the IP address of the machine that send it. If the two don't match — as in the case of many spam emails where the domain has been spoofed to avoid detection — FairUCE will send a challenge and response signal to the domain. This will verify the identity IP address of the sender, which IBM claims should catch 80 percent of spam.

If the email's purported domain does match the IP address of the computer that sent it, then FairUCE will check the domain against lists of known spammers.

Future versions of the product, which is currently only available to mail administrators, will incorporate Sender Policy Framework or similar sender identification systems

In a press statement, the company said the product can distinguish between emails from zombie computers and those from legitimate servers. It also attempts to block email from spammers who use fake identities, which could help to reduce the effects of phishing scams.

Some reports have suggested that FairUCE sends spam back to the sender.

"That's not actually right," said Steve Linford, director of antispam lobbyist Spamhaus. "It isn't sending anything back to spammers. You can't fight abuse with abuse, and that's not what IBM is doing."

IBM also denied that FairUCE would attempt to take the fight to spammers.

"That was an inaccuracy from a different publication," said Marc Goubert, manager of IBM Alphaworks, which developed FairUCE. "Most of the spam is blocked just by filtering from the sender. Eighty percent of mail is blocked like that. It's just the challenge that goes back to do the sender check."