As a result, the schools backed up less often – meaning spam was undermining data recovery. Relying on filtering, Hautman was constantly fine-tuning the system. With a majority of spam blocked, false positives went up, and teachers, administrators, and parents would complain. If more messages were passed through, end users griped about increasing amounts of junk.
Is Sender Verification the Answer?
To address these issues, both Khronos and White Bear Lake Area Schools installed Sendio’s I.C.E. Box. The appliance sits in front of the enterprise email server infrastructure and relies on sender verification.
When a message is received from a first-time sender, the box identifies the message for special treatment. The sender receives an immediate acknowledgement of the receipt of the message and a request to verify the email address. If the sender replies, there’s a very good chance that a real person is on the other end of the message. Spam servers, of course, can’t do this, nor can spam zombies. They are only effective if invisible, which prevents them from being blocked at the ISP or domain level.
“It’s important to remember exactly what spam is if you want to fight it,” Lee-Thorp said. “It has three key features: it’s unwanted, voluminous, and anonymous.”
Most technologies focus only on volume and the probability that a message may be unwanted. They determine those probabilities through content analysis or various systems of scoring. A much more basic indication, though, is overlooked. Anonymous email is almost always unwanted. Not allowing senders to be anonymous makes the content somewhat besides the points.
Other I.C.E. Box features include the ability to automatically whitelist a user’s contacts, while also whitelisting the addresses on outgoing email, which cuts down on the number of verifications a person’s contacts need to perform.
“After the system is trained, this can operate beyond the spam level, giving end users control over who gets into their inboxes,” Lee-Thorp said. If a sender has been verified, but keeps sending pesky forwards, for instance, that person can be blocked outright or quarantined so the messages can be grouped and scanned in an instance, without ever cluttering an inbox.
For an IT administrator, I.C.E. Box is also about more than spam, or, more accurately, it frees them from having spam abatement as one of their major, time-consuming projects.
“I felt like my job had become spam management,” Grau said. “Now, I can tackle all of those other projects that I didn’t have the time to work on.”