Spam and virus control?

Monday, 23 September 2002, 12:24 PM EST

On the one hand is high-volume spam, which is a deliberate marketing act; on the other is virus/worm infected e-mail, with its automated activity. Distinguishing between them is hard and this matters as solutions are different.

However, when I think I've got it tough, I spare some thought for the ISPs which are having to deal with them passing through their systems. ISPs are tackling this in different ways, raising issues about balances between "rights" and "duties" in our communications infrastructure.

The three providers I use for e-mail have taken quite different approaches to the issue. I use ATT only for e-mail when I'm travelling and get about two legitimate messages a month. Last year, ATT introduced a voluntary anti-spam service which automatically flags possible spam. This allowed easy filtering for deletion, but caught only about 50 percent of the spam. It recently added the option of online storage of suspect material – you log in to check and delete unwanted email. In one month, more than 1MB of spam was held, this on top of the 50 e-mails per day that it doesn't catch.

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