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Heavy-handed anti-spam filtering can frequently lead to the loss of legitimate emails.

That's the warning from email appliance vendor, Mirapoint, which has integrated improved anti-spam technology in its Message Server and Message Director products.

Most anti-spam products available today employ brute-force comparison techniques or narrowly-focused filters which are easily out-manoeuvred by spammers. These products have a high risk of false positives, lost emails and compromised privacy, the company argues.

Mirapoint reckons over-zealous filtering has serious drawbacks not through reference to independent research or even through tests on the many anti-spam solutions. No, the belief comes through its own work in developing in-house technology, which replaces spam filtering technology from Trend Micro previously bundled with its appliances.

Intuitively, we believe Mirapoint is right in its assessment that anti-spam filters can block legitimate emails, but we have no proof. Nor does Mirapoint.

Oh well.

Anti-spam is the new anti-virus

We are struck by the sheer volume of companies bringing anti-spam solutions in recent weeks to market. As spam volumes increase, the need for anti-spam products grows. Entry costs for vendors are low, and so we're seeing a growth in the anti-spam market comparable to that of the anti-virus market in the early 1990s.

One of the difficulties reporting of this market is there's little or no intelligence on the effectiveness of rival products. We harbour a nagging suspicion that many commercial products are little more effective than open source or Internet community initiatives that have been going on for some time.

Steve Ashmore, lead consultant at Mirapoint, told us at the UK launch that its improved anti-spam technology is differentiated by giving end users control of spam policies and by using multiple techniques to "search and destroy" spam. There's also the ease of deployment that comes from an appliance approach, he argued.

Mirapoint's anti-spam technology employs a combination of heuristic rules-based scanning, white and black lists, content filtering, and other key security features like SMTP-based authentication. Configurable network-based updates to Mirapoint's heuristic rules engine as new filters allow the device to keep up with spammers.

Mirapoint's appliances also handle MMS messages sent over the Internet, which Ashmore predicts will be an increasing risk in the future. The company is targeting telecoms operators, large enterprises and universities with its technology.

Mirapoint's anti-spam technology is available immediately for the Mirapoint Message Server and Message Director products, as an update to Mirapoint Messaging Operating System 3.3 software. Pricing starts at $25,000 for 20,000 users. ®

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