Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    Help at hand in war against corporate e-mail spam

    by Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #695  February 18-24, 2003 High Tech Office  column

    Earlier this year (issues 689 and 690 to be exact), we saw that our e-mail in-boxes have increasingly become filled with time-wasting spam messages and potentially dangerous computer viruses.

    In the same way that many individual computer users purchase and install a package like Symantec's Norton Internet Security (looked at in issue 690), there are at least a dozen pre-packaged products available to run on large, corporate networks. For example, Vancouver-based ActiveState offers PureMessage 3.0 (formerly known as PerlMx), as a comprehensive message management solution.

    It promises network managers control over spam and virus-transmitting e-mail messages along with enforcement of corporate e-mail policies. PureMessage's virus protection is licensed from well-known McAfee Security. The company claims that it can identify and quarantine up to 98 per cent of spam received through a company's e-mail server, using a combination of frequently updated spam directories and analysis of message content.

    Content analysis also lets the software check outgoing messages for compliance with corporate policies, protecting clients from breaches of confidentiality and legal liability. The program is administered using a friendly browser-interface and offers automatic updating and automated mail filtering. Potentially unwanted messages can be quarantined, with end users receiving periodic digests of messages that they can review or retrieve. (This can be important, since inevitably some wanted messages get mis-identified as spam.)

    ActiveState has recently added the capability to identify so-called image spam, messages that defeat traditional spam-blockers by using links in an e-mail message to connect to images stored online. When viewed, the image appears in the e-mail message, carrying the unwanted message, but there's no text in the message itself to be blocked by software content-analysis.

    Local customers include Nettwerk Records, the City of Richmond, Coast Capital Savings and Langara College. Pricing is about $19,000 for 5,000 users.

    While ActiveState makes it easier for network managers to control the content of e-mail traffic flowing through the company network, FrontBridge Technologies (formerly BigFish Communications) feels network managers would welcome the chance to let someone else act as "the front line of defense" between the Internet and corporate networks.

    Its Enterprise Message Management service requires no on-site hardware or software installation, and can be up and running for an organization in less than an hour. To counter fears of data-loss, the company guarantees its reliability, noting that it has experienced over two years of continuous operation without downtime. In fact, its "Store and Forward" feature ensures that if your corporate network goes down, they'll keep your e-mail for you until your network's ready to receive it. They claim only 1-in-250,000 messages are falsely identified as spam, which they believe is the best in the industry.

    Frontbridge's Chris Cade notes that with his company's service, the client's network administrator retains the ability to make changes and customize the messages that are allowed to enter and leave the corporate network.

    By keeping spam from even entering the corporate network, its service reduces clients' network bandwidth and storage needs. Local clients include Sandman Hotels, Tourism Vancouver, and Whitlaw Twining. Pricing is based on the amount of network traffic, and can vary from $0.50 to $5 per user. Resellers like Voyus repackage their services to smaller clients.

    Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator and computer specialist. He can be reached at

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan