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ISPs at risk over spam deluge, cautions security expert

  • 13 November, 2006 11:10

<p>Growing numbers of businesses and individuals are complaining that the anti-spam solutions provided by their Internet service providers (ISPs) are letting through far too much junk email, according to Australian data security expert Peter Stewart.</p>
<p>Chairman of TotalBlock Pty Ltd, Stewart believes the problem lies in the ISPs’ use of filtering technology to block spam, rather than the far more effective challenge-response method, while some ISPs are not using an anti-spam system. His company is challenging Australian ISPs to trial its TotalBlock anti-spam solution, which cuts out all unauthorised incoming email messages while losing no legitimate traffic.</p>
<p>Stewart said: “We are getting a steady flow of enquiries from small to medium businesses that are absolutely fed up with playing around with filters – they simply involve staff in a whole lot of work that eats into their time and reduces their efficiency.</p>
<p>“We are also getting an increasing number of calls from individuals who are spending money on systems supplied by the ISPs that don’t work.</p>
<p>“Like most enterprises, ISPs use anti-spam solutions that rely on filtering techniques. Yet filtering is a persistent pain, which administrators need to crank up or down in the constant battle to achieve a balance between spam and false positives. Either filtering stops too much legitimate email or, if you open it wide, it lets through a flood of spam.”</p>
<p>Paul Hunter, former senior executive with IBM, was using Bigpond’s anti-spam solution and still receiving 20-30 spam emails per day before switching to TotalBlock. Since then he has received no spam and is not aware of missing any legitimate emails.</p>
<p>Rahul Maini, who runs communications specialist firm One Earth Infotech Pty Ltd ( in Sydney, agrees that filtering solutions are far from effective. He says: “ My clients have been using filtering from different ISPs, and some have their own domains, but they are still receiving lots of spam. We advise them all to switch to TotalBlock, and at least 99 per cent of their spam is stopped. One Earth solutions include web design and hosting, software development, VoIP and a combined mail and proxy service package.</p>
<p>Scott Smith, who created the Northern Illawarra Online web portal (, advises people who use the site for checking local news, attractions, events and businesses, to switch to TotalBlock if they start receiving annoying levels of spam.</p>
<p>He says: “I found that spam filtering was not working. I had three levels of filtering in place - through the host and the service provider, and even at my end, yet hundreds of unwanted emails a week were still getting through. Switching to TotalBlock solved that problem. It’s such a relief to walk into my office and find half a dozen wanted emails waiting for me, instead of 60 or 70, most of which are rubbish.”</p>
<p>Scott said his portal had been creating spam problems for customers because the site raised their profile among spammers as well as the people this wished to target, so he has recommended TotalBlock to all his clients to resolve this issue.</p>
<p>Bruce Stewart, former IT consultant, now Group CEO for Wireless Communications company Infostream, cites a growing problem with spam filters: more and more legitimate email enclosing documents are being generated automatically by organisations such as banks, and filters simply regard these as spam.</p>
<p>“With filtering, it’s left to someone to write a lot of complicated rules inside spam control software,” said Bruce. “It’s a very imprecise way to control spam. In contrast, TotalBlock relies on the same method we use to answer a knock on the door. Either you know the visitor or you satisfy yourself that he or she has a legitimate reason for entering. Similarly with TotalBlock, when email senders fail to prove themselves, you actively block them. You are in control of your own rules for allowing or blocking senders.”</p>
<p>Peter Stewart says that switching to a 100 per cent effective challenge-response solution like TotalBlock would give ISPs an edge in their highly competitive business.</p>
<p>Blacklist fallout</p>
<p>Stewart believes that fallout from a US court order for blacklisting organisation Spamhaus to pay $US11.7 million in damages for blocking a marketing company’s email is likely to have repercussions for ISPs worldwide.</p>
<p>He says the use of blacklists is could place ISPs at risk of being sued by their customers for cutting off services to those whose names appear on the blacklists.</p>
<p>“Blacklisting was never an efficient way of curbing spam, since far too many innocent email users are wrongly listed and find it very difficult and time-consuming to clear their names from the lists,” said Stewart. “Legal action against the ISPs who use such lists is on the cards following the precedent set by the Spamhaus case.”</p>
<p>About TotalBlock</p>
<p>TotalBlock - - is an Australian-developed anti-spam solution that also guards against network overloads caused by storming, harvesting and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. It works by blocking ALL machine-generated unwanted email, using a challenge-response technique rather than commonly used filtering. TotalBlock builds a list of acceptable incoming email senders, using a customer’s address book as well as replying automatically to any emailers who are not on the allowed list. The reply contains a simple action that, when followed, adds the sender to the allowed list. The action can be as simple as replying to the challenge. Since this authorisation process requires human intervention, it bypasses drone machines that spew out huge volumes of spam.</p>
<p>For more information</p>
<p>Peter Stewart or Ben Corby
TotalBlock Pty Ltd
Tel. 61-2-9437 9800</p>

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