What is the Internets biggest problem? Spam e-mail. According to The Gartner Group e-mail users are being inundated with 10 times the spam they were receiving just a year ago, and 16 times what they were getting two years ago.
It is estimated that 27 percent of all e-mail today can be classified as spam, according to research firm eMarketer.
I recently tested new software that gets rid of spam – Mail Wiper. Within a few days, we went from about 100 spam e-mails per day to zero.
We also made improvement suggestions during our test period that are now integrated into the software.
Mailwiper.com CEO Rob Martinson updates us on how big the spam problem really is and explains how his new software works.
Q: Spam is a huge issue for millions of people. Give us an idea what your software is able to do.
Martinson: MailWiper, which is in patent pending right now, operates in a paradoxical manner when compared to traditional methods of e-mail client spam blocking.
Instead of asking, Who is the spammer? like all of our ISP competitors and server-based filtering programs, MailWiper asks, Who isnt the spammer?
We accomplish this with five bulletproof software mechanisms. We use five MailWiper offense weapons against spam. The five components of this arsenal are 1) your address books and contact lists, 2) a user-controlled dynamic white list, 3) a user-controlled configurable stealth e-mail ID, 4) automatically managed auto-replies and 5) the user-controlled black list.
Q: I like these scary military references.
Martinson: Well, its a war out there. The key to MailWiper is the controls are in the users hands. No spammer has access to even one MailWiper configuration wizard.
Q: While MailWiper allows the user to decide what is spam, most spam filters are through the ISP. Do you think the government and ISPs are going to be effective in cutting down the spam?
Martinson: The U.S. government cant really help – even if they passed a law to ban spam. Then the spammers would just go to foreign countries and bypass the U.S. laws altogether.
In terms of the large ISPs, unfortunately, their mechanisms are pretty much obsolete. The large ISPs use IP blocking and phrase filtering technology.
Both of these have been defeated by two things: the spammers are using dynamic IP switching. That means that the IP that was previously blocked can now changed midstream. Its actually happening on the fly.
The second thing is quite interesting. The spammers have switched from words in their ads, which were easily filtered through phrase statistical algorithms, to images.
So without the words and with everything being a sliced gif several graphic files that circumvents the phrase filtering algorithm. Consequently, these mechanisms just dont work anymore.
Q: Most of the spamming e-mails are now going out as images rather than text?
Martinson: Precisely. The service level software blockers or filters just arent effective.
They may work on some of the older spamming techniques, but not the newer ones.
That brings the problem back into the users hands again because their ISPs cant help them with the massive amounts of spam coming in.
Q: Is the government going to be able to force the ISPs to block unsolicited e-mail?
Martinson: They would have to develop a new technology. Thats the issue at hand.
Q: Once again, enterprise beats the government to the solution.
Martinson: We have a goal. We didnt want children and grown-ups seeing awful pornography spam e-mails. We set out to solve the problem and didnt see any way to do it but from the client side.
Q: Do you think people will stop using e-mail if there is no spam filtering?
Martinson: No, but I believe people will change e-mail addresses, which will help them temporarily. The Web e-mail addresses are hit the worse due to the spammers sending out a large number of guessed e-mail addresses that eventually hit most, if not all, of the Web mail addresses at MSN, Hotmail and Yahoo!
Q: Recently a study said spam was only a problem for heavy e-mail users. Is that true?
Martinson: I think the volume of spam can be less for those who dont use Web mail.
But of course once one spammer gets an e-mail address, it can get out of control very quickly.
Furthermore, users that sign up for free offers are prone to receive the heaviest volume of spam faster than those who have never signed up for anything on the Web.
Those that have their e-mail posted on HTML Web pages and newsgroups have an extremely large volume of incoming spam because the spammers have harvested those e-mail addresses right off the Web by using Web bots, which search for e-mail addresses on every URL across the Internet.
Q: I have tested MailWiper for about a month and it is very effective. Tell us what is required for an e-mail user to start the process and how soon they can expect results.
Martinson: It actually blocks spam immediately. The first line of defense we use is to compare your e-mail address book and contact list with your incoming e-mail addresses.
If the From address in the e-mail header does not match your address and contact list, then MailWiper will look at its white list, which is our second line of offense.
Remember, we take the opposite approach: not who is the spammer, but who isnt the spammer. MailWiper will automatically add good e-mail addresses into your white list so the user doesnt have to.
Q: Are you doing unique things that other spam filtering software arent doing?
Martinson: We really are. The spammers are playing a cat and mouse game.
Instead of chasing the mouse in a large open field, the mouse is in a box, already caught and completely contained.
We dont see that our competitors can keep up with the changes the spammers are making.
We use the Fort Knox approach so there is no way that anyone can get into your inbox.
Q: What e-mail client applications does MailWiper software work with?
Martinson: MailWiper works with Microsoft Outlook 2000 and 2002 as well as Outlook Express 5.5 and 6.0.
For more information about MailWiper, visit www.webtalkguys.com and click on the MailWiper link. The full audio interview with Rob Martinson can also be heard on the Website.
Dana Greenlee is co-host, producer and engineer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.