ITS adopts new SPAM filter

Students tired of deleting Viagra advertisements and get-rich-quick offers from their student e-mail accounts will no longer have to do so, starting Oct. 1. A new anti-SPAM system is being implemented at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

The university receives about 60,000 e-mails a day. At least 70 percent of these are SPAM, said Rich Whitney, associate vice chancellor for Information Technology Services.

The annual fee for licensing the new software from Mailfrontier is $33,000 dollars. The service will be paid for out of current student technology fees. A new server to accommodate the software was also purchased from Sun Microsystems.

The high volume of SPAM directly affects the productivity and longevity of UAA’s e-mail system. SPAM causes the system to run slower and shortens the life span of hardware and software, Whitney said. But the real problem is increasing student and staff complaints about the level of SPAM over the past two years.

“People are getting tired of seeing objectionable content,” Whitney said.

Several university employees have complained that they receive over 1,000 SPAM e-mails every week.

Students have mixed feelings about the new technology.

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“SPAM is something that you can deal with individually,” said Lori Campbell, a junior journalism and public communications major. “It’s irritating but it’s not something I feel the university has to deal with.”

Campbell said she uses her university account frequently and receives a lot of SPAM, but she does not know if the program is worth it.

Joe Jordan, a graduate student in English, agrees.

“(The service) maybe an extra expenditure that is superfluous,” Jordan said.

Jordan checks his e-mail about 20 times a day but rarely receives SPAM. While the new system may help students who receive a lot of spam, new legislation aimed at destroying spam may make the effort redundant, said Jordan.

One such piece of legislation, the “Can-Spam Act of 2003,” would ban deceptive e-mail advertising, the distribution of e-mail addresses without users’ consent, and would require that users be allowed to ‘opt-out’ of e-mailing lists.

Students won’t have to sign up or login to the new program.

The new SPAM system will be “opt out,” Whitney said.

Previously, students would have to choose to join a new service offered by ITS. Now, students will be automatically enrolled in the system and if they want, can choose to disable it.

The new system tests for categories other SPAM filters may not such as get-rich-quick schemes, objectionable language and sexually explicit material.

Students worried that the spam system may screen out materials they need have several options.

“From a users point of view it’s a real slick system,” said Whitney. “None of the mail goes away. Students can check the quarantined SPAM mail by logging into the Mailfrontier site. The system is automatically setup to delete SPAM in thirty days. But students can change the settings. Students can also change the SPAM filter to a higher or lower settings.”

One of the most important features of the technology is the new collaborative category, said Whitney. Based on audience responses, the collaborative category is a list of more than 500 companies determined to be SPAM generators. Any e-mail directly from these companies will automatically be dumped into the anti-SPAM site.