Last month’s Sobig.F worm attacks and MSblaster infestations, which spread through unsolicited emails, have added fuel to the fires already burning in corporate boardrooms over what to do about so much unwanted junk mail.
Over the last six months, anti-virus and anti-spam vendors have noticed a marked increase in enterprise interest for their products. That’s why Symantec, the makers of Norton anti-virus software, and Network Associates (NA), which owns the McAfee moniker, both rolled out anti-spam products in just the past few months.
But, bad as they were, it’s not so much that Sobig.F and MSblaster have caused awareness to increase, said Ryan McGee, director of product marketing at Network Associates (NA). These attacks are common occurrences that three to five years ago would have been viewed as just another mass-mailer type virus.
What’s changed is the annoyance factor.
“They’ve come at a time when the population at large is aware of spam in a way they have not been before,” he said. “But now that spam is a big problem and something a lot of people are aware of, certainly there’s a connection made (between anti-spam software and worms).”
That mood can also be gauged outside of the business world by things like the creation of the National Do Not Call Registry, said Chuck Egress, a product manager at Symantec. A registry aimed at stopping telemarketer’s calls that, ironically, became overwhelmed within hours of opening by callers looking to sign up.
This is the same mood increasingly felt by network managers tired of dealing with bandwidth-clogging junk emails, users that spend hours each week sifting and deleting their way through in-boxes, and corporate executives (who also have to sift their in-boxes) worried about employee lawsuits if they do nothing about the pornographic nature of many of the junk emails their workers are forced to view.
This last issue is one just now making its way to surface, said McGee.
“We have a lot of customers that are concerned about that,” he said. “I haven’t seen any actions in the courts yet that validate that concern but I’ve definitely heard the concern a lot,” he said.
To cash in on these concerns and frustrations, a whole new crop of companies has popped up in recent months, he said.
Startup Angenous is one of those players. It rolled out Motino — an anti-junk mail filter for PCs and the small-business market — in June and has already accommodated about 10,000 downloads, said founder Frederick Giarrusso. Since the Sobig.F and MSblaster attacks, interest in his product has increased roughly 50% and, outside of some banner ads on Google and Overture, Giarrusso hasn’t even started marketing the product.
“I really hope we don’t see an up-tick (in business) due to worms and viruses,” he said. “That’s a horrible way to grow a company. I think as long as those things are out there we will continue to see a lot interest from that direction.”
But anti-spam software is only a partial solution, said SpamCop creator, Julian Haight. Alone spam filters can do as much harm as good by blocking legitimate emailers whose systems have been infected with mass-mailers. To avoid this problem a combination approach needs to be taken that includes anti-spam software, anti-virus solutions and user vigilance.
Still, this hasn’t stopped buyers. Anti-Spam provider Brightmail posted a record second quarter, citing 120 new customers and CAGR of 140% over its past three years’ numbers.
A five-month-old study done for Symantec may indicate why. Thirty-seven percent of home users responded they get more than 100 junk emails per week, not a huge number in and of itself, but 59% “strongly” agreed junk email was “harmful” and 84% feel it places a burden on their time.
Extrapolating those numbers over to the business side of respondent’s lives and add the fact that more spam, not less, is being generated today, said Egress, and it’s easy to see why spam has become such an issue.
“There’s definitely a buzz about it and there’s definitely a large level of interest (in anti-spam products)…and I don’t see it letting up,” he said.