MessageLabs, Symantec team on antispam service

Symantec technology will help MessageLabs offer better e-mail filtering, the companies say.
Written by Will Sturgeon, Contributor and  Staff , Contributor
MessageLabs, a provider of e-mail security services, will use Symantec's Brightmail filtering technology as part of its own antispam service, the company said Wednesday.

The company said the Brightmail technology will help it create a more multilayered defense against spam.

Mark Sunner, chief technology officer of MessageLabs, told Silicon.com that making use of third-party, best-of-breed technology has always been at the heart of MessageLabs' plans. This latest development is something the company has been thinking about "for years," he said.

"From the point of view of offering managed services, we are vendor-agnostic, and where we believe it will add to that service, we will always look to bring in third-party solutions," Sunner said. "Symantec's Brightmail technology will contrast with our own database and enable a far more comprehensive approach to filtering out spam."

Sunner said that in looking for such deals, MessageLabs is not only cutting down its development overheads but is also telling the market that there is no single solution, or "silver bullet," for beating spam: "You will always need a multilayered approach."

Symantec acquired the Brightmail technology earlier this year in a US$370 million deal.

The Brightmail technology includes at its heart a probe network of more than 2 million spam traps: dummy accounts with random, unpublished addresses where all e-mail is deemed unsolicited by definition. It also offers non-English language filters and signature-based filtering that eliminates the false-positive readings associated with keyword filters, or Bayesian filters.

Sunner believes that even companies that are blocking as much as 90 percent of spam are sitting on a time bomb, as the sheer volume of e-mail traffic means that even 10 percent will soon represent a severe problem in terms of volume.

"We are looking for around 98 percent effectiveness," he Sunner said.

Enrique Salem, senior vice president of network and gateway solutions at Symantec, also said the volume of spam is growing tremendously. "Spam has grown from 8 percent (of all mail) in 2001 to 65 percent currently," he said.

Salem believes filtering is the only way to beat the spammers. Despite calls for stricter legislation and even fundamental changes to e-mail, such as micropayments that would make bulk mailing prohibitively expensive.

"The industry has not been able to develop an efficient micropayment system," Salem said. "Converting the world's SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) servers to understanding micropayment is a formidable task. While interesting, it may not be the most efficient way to address the problem."

Sunner said MessageLabs expects to deliver the Brightmail technology during the fourth quarter.

Will Sturgeon of Silicon.com reported from London.

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