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AT&T WorldNet to use Brightmail to block spam

August 27, 1999
Web posted at: 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT)

by Jeff Partyka

internet spam

(IDG) -- Brightmail Inc. announced Thursday that AT&T WorldNet Service has agreed to implement the Brightmail Anti-Spam Service, which according to the company keeps unsolicited e-mail, or spam, out of a user's inbox.

AT&T WorldNet, the first major ISP (Internet service provider) to implement the service, plans to offer it free to its subscribers by the end of the year, according to Brightmail.

As part of the Anti-Spam Service, which requires no client software, Brightmail uses its Probe Network to find and forward spam to the Brightmail Logistics and Operations Center (BLOC).

"The detection system we have in place is the Probe Network, which consists of e-mail accounts contributed by about 25 Brightmail partners," said Jeff Magill, Brightmail's vice president of marketing. "Jointly, they represent more than 35 million e-mail accounts."
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Brightmail's partners include AT&T WorldNet, Concentric Network, EarthLink Network Inc., Excite Inc., FastNet, FlashNet, Juno Online Services Inc. and Inc.

Magill said the e-mail addresses exist strictly to act as probes, attracting messages that might be spam.

"As soon as one of those e-mail accounts receives a piece of e-mail, it's transmitted to the BLOC, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by spam masters," he said. "They're trained in evaluating a piece of e-mail to determine whether or not it's spam. It might be a piece of e-mail that's hit a number of our probes and looks as if it's been sent out in bulk, or it might contain some sort of commercial proposition and was clearly unsolicited, since there's no real person using the e-mail address."

Once it finds a piece of suspected spam, the BLOC staff updates each user's "spam wall" to keep out the latest outbreaks.

"They run it through our existing rule set that contains filters to filter out spam," Magill said. "If a rule has already been written, fine. If a rule has not been written, then they write one, then transmit that rule out to all of the filtering spam walls that have been installed at our customer's site. What AT&T will be doing is installing a number of spam walls on their e-mail servers. Any e-mail sent to their system that shares characteristics with that e-mail that we detected will then be filtered out."

The Spam Wall sends suspected spam to a Brightmail inbox, where the user may examine it for up to 30 days to make sure no wanted e-mail has been routed there mistakenly. "The user will also receive a periodic notifier of e-mail that has been sent to the Brightmail inbox," Magill said.

The fact that the spam filtering is done at the ISP level rather than the user level makes Brightmail's service unique, according to Magill.

"We don't have any competition for this," he said. "Most anti-spam solutions to date have been desktop software that's plugged into an e-mail client, and the burden of writing rules is placed on the user."

According to Brightmail, various ISPs estimate that between 5 percent and 25 percent of all e-mail is spam. The company also cites a survey by Gartner Group Inc. in which 74 percent of users opined that spam regulation should be handled by ISPs.

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