As such, Datamation added anti-spam as a first-time category in its annual Product of the Year Awards.
In the new category, users gave top honors to Trend Micro Spam Prevention Solution (SPS) from Trend Micro, Inc. The winner garnered 393 votes, and was followed by Anti-Spam Enterprise Edition 5.0 from Brightmail Inc., with 157 votes. IronPort C60 from IronPort Systems, Inc. grabbed third place with 48 votes. MessageScreen Platinum from IntelliReach Corp. followed with 47 votes, and Authority 2.0 from Cloudmark, Inc. took in 41 votes.
SPS has proven popular with users because it provides a variety of different ways for identifying and dealing with spam, according to Eric Hemmendinger, research director for security and privacy at Aberdeen Group in Boston.
It's no longer efficient to compile lists of known spammers and filter them out, because those lists are so large and growing bigger all the time, adds Hemmendinger. And it's too cumbersome to update them on a daily basis.
''What we've learned over time... is the more commonly used methods would be content filtering, like text filters that look for certain key words or sophisticated heuristics that look at the content of a message to see if it appears to fit the mold of what is readily recognized as spam,'' Hemmendinger says. He also pointed to techniques that spammers use to trip up email filters, like adding asterisks between each letter in a word so it can't be identified.''
Another method that SPS and other anti-spam products are starting to use is IP validation. A lot of spam that gets sent out is spoofed, so it may appear to come from a particular email address but it actually comes from somewhere else. IP validation goes out and validates that the email address is really from the sender, Hemmendinger says.
Finding a solution that went beyond a cursory scan was what Continental Tire North America had in mind last year in order to deal with a bombardment of spam, says Steve Dingfelder, manager of the Charlotte, N.C.-based company's technical IT services.
''Overnight I would get over 200 spam messages,'' says Dingfelder. ''I'd say 75 percent of the mail we were getting into Continental Tire was spam. We didnt realize how high it was until we put the spam filter on it and ran a 90-day test.''
Dingfelder says they wanted the anti-spam software to sit in front of the virus filter they were running on their email servers. If an email turns out to be spam, they simply discard it instead of going through the steps to check it for a virus.
Dingfelder says he likes the idea that all their email is scanned by both anti-spam and anti-virus detection systems, giving them a checks-and-balances mechanism.
Before installing SPS, Dingfelder said he was flooded with complaints from a lot of people in the company because much of the spam coming in was pornographic in nature. Spam filtering has led to better productivity, he says, and in that respect, the product has paid for itself.
Now, Dingfelder says he doesn't get more than two or three spam messages a week in his inbox.
''It's basically been unobtrusive,'' he says. ''You put it in place and it runs. And that's the most you can ask for.''