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Spam fighters make a good killing

From CNN correspondent Kristie Lu Stout

About half of all email is spam, research shows.
About half of all email is spam, research shows.

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Would you pay a firm to block spam from entering your mailbox?

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- A rising tide of junk email is spawning a highly lucrative "antispam" industry as everyone tries to sell something on the Internet.

About half of all email is unsolicited junk mail or "spam," clogging up inboxes, and costing businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity.

Ferris Research has estimated the cost of spam to a company of 10,000 workers is $1.1 million.

With the Internet remaining hard to police and legislation so far failing to stop the junk, sending spam can be good business, with low startup costs and high margins.

But spammers are not the only ones making money as new businesses pile in droves to help computer users "dump the junk."

"It's a battle out there between the people doing spam and people like ourselves who are trying to address it," said Andy Lake, director of Mailprove, a four-month old startup out to make the ultimate spam killer.

"It stops spam before it actually leaves. So, you don't get spam on the network."

It's early days yet, but if it works, Mailprove stands to make a tidy sum.

According to research firm Radicati group, antispam firms will make more than $600 million in sales this year, and more then $2 billion by 2007.

But Mailprove isn't the only one out to make a buck. Dozens of companies around the world are touting antispam goods.

Senior venture partner of Crystal Ventures, Henry Wong, told CNN he has found about seven companies that are already in China making antispam software.

"I believe this market is more than just software. It can be a hardware solution like a chip solution for applications security," he said.

But do we need more solutions when we have the big guy in the industry working on it?

Microsoft says its latest offering can detect and filter out unwanted mail, but the software giant concedes: the more, the merrier.

The general manager of Microsoft Oliver Roll says third party software is crucial in combating spam.

"We have facilities inside Outlook and Windows Server 2003. But third parties put together very specific solutions for customers to help them set spam preferences," he said.

That means the little guys could get the leftovers -- a lot of leftovers.

Asked if there will be an end to spam, one computer user told CNN he is doubtful.

"There's too many people out there, selling too many things," he said.

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