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Stopping spam by slowing it down

HP 3000 managers steward more than their MPE/iX systems. Many of our readers care for Unix servers, Windows networks — the whole enchilada, as we say down here in the Southwest. A former HP 3000 expert is offering a solution on stopping spam that might ease the non-3000 portion of your task list.

Mailchannels_intro_mar0107 David Greer, a leading light from the 3000 community's foundation days, is helping in the battle against spam. Nearly all 3000 sites which manage their own mail server use something other than the 3000 as a mailbox. This fact of life makes Traffic Control, a product offered from MailChannels (where Greer is a board member) a good prospect to keep e-mail humming at 3000 sites.

Most e-mail spam is delivered from robot and zombie computers these days, a shift in the strategy that's letting a lot more junk clog up operations. "People don't understand how fundamental a shift this has been over the last three years," he said. "Spam volume doubled last year. The problem's getting worse."

Throwing money at the problem with extra servers, to keep up with the torrent, is a losing battle. Enter Traffic Control, which makes it less profitable for spammers to fill the pipe with the 89 percent of mail that is spam. By slowing suspected spammers, the spam business model is hurt. Either fewer messages must be sent per hour (increasing costs), or zombie computers must pick different targets.

The way Greer explains it, a concept called "throttling" gives Traffic Control users (yes, a Linux server is required) a way to make spammers look elsewhere — like a burglar moving on when they hear a dog in a house.

With targeted sender throttling that operates at the network layer and is triggered at network and application layer, "Spammers voluntarily abort the connection in under 30 seconds," Greer said. The solution conserves resources for legitimate senders inside an organization, eliminates false positives (mail that's not really spam)
and reduces server impact.

Traffic shaping, which is the control of computer network traffic in order to optimize or guarantee performance, low latency, and bandwidth "is totally new at the application layer," he adds, a technique that MailChannels is working to patent.

Stopping spam by slowing its return on investment meets a problem in a novel way. Greer said an 80-90 percent reduction in spam is common. A 3000 manager who can set up a Linux or Unix server can have MailChannels set up a free evaluation.