By Jonathan Smith, Managing Editor
In an effort to curb rising numbers of unsolicited e-mails promoting products or services, commonly known as spam, the university is looking for ways to alleviate the problem on its e-mail server.
Dr. K.B. Massingill, chief information officer, said a spam filter is in place, but only for a few e-mail accounts to see how it works.
Even with the best filters, Massingill said usually only about 75 percent of spam is caught and that occasionally the filter will make a false-positive, marking a nonspam message as spam.
“We are moving aggressively to limit the spam coming into our e-mail system, but we are also moving with caution because a single important e-mail that is lost due to a false-positive can be painful,” Massingill said.
Jim Trietsch, associate CIO, said integration of the software began in mid-October and widespread use of the software will not be ready until at least the beginning of next semester.
Trietsch, who began studying how other universities control spam in April, said several software options for a filter exist. He said some professional software could cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 dollars. Open source, no-cost software is available.
The Web Integration and Programming team settled on an open-source program called Spam Assassin, software that half the groups surveyed by Trietsch were using.
Trietsch said the main problem with spam is the resources it consumes.
“Any time you have a high volume of e-mail, it’s going to slow down the process,” Trietsch said.
Massingill said once the filter is in place, students should check the folder where the targeted spam is sent to make sure the right e-mails are targeted.
“Once the filters are in place, there will be a burden on users to regularly check a folder where their spam is sequestered as a means to see if any legitimate mail was accidently filtered out,” Massingill said. “This is a common feature to almost all spam filters.”
Trietsch said that once implemented, some students will probably notice its effects more than others, but everyone will still receive spam.
“One caution about something like this: people hope that our spam problem will go away,” Trietsch said. “That’s really not true.”