TelstraClear uses humans to clear spam

TelstraClear has discovered that the best way to clear spam is to make use of the old Mark One human eyeball.

TelstraClear has discovered that the best way to clear spam is to make use of the old Mark One human eyeball.

TelstraClear will introduce a spam and virus filtering service to its two ISPs ClearNet and Paradise from September 8. The solution, from US-based anti-spam specialists Brightmail, makes use of a logistics centre full of people who scan emails to see if they are real or contain spam, according to TelstraClear's e-commerce manager Mike Skinner.

"Brightmail has a huge number of live accounts [for example brightmail@clear.net.nz] that sit on the mail servers of the ISPs who are their customers. Mail [sent to those addresses] that is tagged by the software as potential spam is sent to the centre and a human being looks at the spam and classifies it as either spam or not."

TelstraClear will provide a number of email addresses for the service as well so Brightmail can rapidly detect whether a spam attack is underway or not.

"Generally they can respond within five to 10 minutes."

Brightmail deploys a number of other techniques as well, such as blacklists and software that monitors for dictionary attacks, but it is this human element which gives it the edge, according to Skinner.

"We wanted a service that gave customers a very high level of confidence and Brightmail has reduced the number of false positives to only one in every million email."

That, coupled with its record of spotting up to 90% of spam will mean TelstraClear customers should be instantly able to see a difference in spam levels in September when the service is rolled out.

Skinner says initially everyone will be included in the service, however from the end of December onward customers will have to chose whether to opt in or not. Most customers will receive the service for free, however those on very low-price plans will pay an additional amount to receive the service. Customers don't need to download any software to use the service, it's all based at the server end, and will have a "grey mail" folder added to their client software where those emails tagged as spam will be sent.

"ClearNet customers who use Imap can connect via any mail client they use. Paradise customers and those ClearNet that don't use iPass can see their grey mail folder via webmail."

Brightmail serves over 600 ISPs worldwide. In March 2003, Brightmail says it filtered more than 55 billion email messages, with over 40% of those being identified as spam.

The anti-virus component of the Brightmail service is provided by Symantec.

TelstraClear's offering comes after a number of other New Zealand ISPs began ofering anti-spam services. However, it isn't concerned about being late to market as it was focusing on choosing the right solution.

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