Email plug-in scans for porn

The release of a porn-detecting software plug-in is timely given recent cases here and overseas of employees being disciplined or sacked for downloading potentially offensive material.

The release of a porn-detecting software plug-in is timely given recent cases here and overseas of employees being disciplined or sacked for downloading potentially offensive material.

Lower Hutt company Scientific Software and Systems' has released the Pornsweeper plug-in for content-scanning software from UK company Content Technologies Mailsweeper. Pornsweeper claims an 85% success rate in detecting pornographic images and nudity.

It does so by evaluating the proportion of skin-tone in a digital image, and the number of regions into which this skin-tone falls, and comparing the readings with a database of similar statistics derived from unacceptable images.

The software also recognises the features of a face, and evaluates its size against the total skin tone area. This should prevent that close-up portrait of the new marketing manager being misidentified as a middle-distance picture of a group of naked people, says Content Technologies' Asia-Pacific channel manager Joel Camissar.

And yes, the comparison samples do take account of different races’ skin-tones, says Content Technologies Asia-Pacific channel sales manager, Joel Camissar.

Because the software is designed as a plug-in to Mailsweeper, its detection capabilities are added to lexical scans conducted by the latter product, which identify not only obscenities, but confidential company information that an employee is trying to send outside the company’s walls.

Mailsweeper also unearths files buried in zip format or other compressed archives, Camissar says. Encrypted email attachments can be “quarantined” for later attention.

At the same time, Content Technologies and SSS have released another plug-in, Archivist, that archives emails. This reflects a trend toward the heavy use of email in business. According to surveys about 34% of business communication only exists in email.

There is a legal requirement to keep many kinds of business documentation in “permanent” form for stipulated periods, and it simply makes sense to preserve records of many transactions to provide evidence in case of legal proceedings or customer complaint, says Camissar.

New Zealand’s contemplated Electronic Transactions Bill is likely to give emails and other electronic documents the same status as physical documents, which will force companies to develop email archival policies. The text of the projected bill is still being formulated, and should emerge in the next month, says a spokeswoman for IT Minister Paul Swain.

Archivist can select emails for archiving based on sender, recipient, subject, date or the names of attached files.

Both plug-ins are released initially for MAILsweeper in its SMTP version, which means only email passing in or out of the organisation will be processed.

Versions for Microsoft Outlook and Exchange and Lotus Domino - used more commonly for internal mail - are coming, but Content Technologies has not given release dates for these versions.

Checking your organisation's email for objectionable material requires a hefty level of processing power.

Content Technologies' Joel Camissar says each email message with an attached image takes four to five seconds to scan. That's based on a 700MHz Pentium III processor with 128Mb of RAM.

Camissar guesses that that amounts to adding about a 2% load to a mail server.

SSS' head Bill Tonkin says, however, that the task can be distributed across several processors, which is the configuration being used at Parliament, a Mailsweeper site.

The parliamentary email server handles about 5000 messages a day, according to Tonkin.

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