HelpMeSoft Corp., a San Diego-based Internet traffic tracking company focused on spam and viruses, is offering security and network administrators a way to fight back against spammers. The company recently released Version 1.2 of Nucem (No Unsolicited Commercial Email), software that not only helps users delete spam from their inboxes, but also tracks down the originator of the spam and blasts a complaint to their ISP.
"We had been using spam filters but it wasn't really working. They didn't stop the spam from coming -- just hid it from everyday view," says Wally Garneau, information systems administrator for Lowell, Mich.-based Root-Lowell Manufacturing Corp., the largest manufacturer of compression sprayers for lawn and garden. "This gives us some control. We can do something about actually stopping the spam."
Garneau says they still get spam but they're not flooded with it like they used to be before they started using Nucem (pronounced "nuke 'em") three or four months ago. But he adds that the amount of spam was cut in half the first week out of the box.
More and more corporate administrators are being forced to fight the battle against spam, which has only gained momentum over the past year.
Brightmail Inc., a San Francisco-based anti-spam company that sells software and rules to filter out spam, reported recently that email inboxes are being flooded with about 400% more unsolicited bulk email, or spam, than they were back in September.
Numbers from Mail-Abuse Prevention Systems LLC (MAPS), one of the largest anti-spam organizations out there, back that up. Margie Arbon, director of operations at MAPS, recently reported that they've seen 600% to 700% more spam between April and June of this year, compared to the same time frame last year.
And spam is smuttier than ever, causing embarrassment and even feelings of a hostile workplace in many offices.
Jonathan Penn, a research director at Giga, a Cambridge, Mass.-based analyst firm, agrees with the general industry consensus that the content of spam has become more offensive. Spam messages are no longer just innocuous solicitations, but marketing of pornographic material or services, he says, adding that an increasing amount of spam comes with graphic text in the subject line and pornographic images embedded in the email.
Focus On Stopping, Not Filtering
And what most industry watchers agree on is that most aren't quite sure how to stop spam. Will it take filters? Blacklists? Federal legislation? Analysts generally agree it will take a combination of efforts to even slow spam down.
John Synesiou, president of HelpMeSoft, hopes to add his own sword to the battle.
"Everyone was trying to filter spam but that's doing nothing about trying to stop it," says Synesiou. "You're going to continue to receive it on a daily basis. Spam is increasing 300% to 600% annually. We want to get those numbers down...We're participating in a movement."
Anyone wanting to manually track down the originator of a spam must be at least somewhat technically savvy, searching through invalid headers, tracing routes and scanning user records. Nucem takes care of that for the user.
"Nucem goes and looks at the email, identifies what information is invalid and files a spam-abuse complaint to the ISP, listing all the relevant information they'll need," says Synesiou. "It may complain to many ISPs at once...the one that sent the email, the links in the message that may be hosted by another ISP, a drop email account where you send orders. We complain to all of those."
Synesiou says the software produced a few complaints to the wrong ISPs when it was fresh on the market but "very rarely" now do they receive any complaints about errors.
"When a user gets an account canceled, the user doesn't only benefit. Everyone else on that mailing list benefits because the spam stops going to them as well," he adds. "It's very net friendly."
Synesiou says any ISP that doesn't respond after several complaints is reported to one of the blacklists. "We've gotten hundreds of accounts canceled," he adds. "We can't always claim that we're purely responsible. We're participating in a movement."