Alberta college graduates to advanced spam tool

An Alberta post-secondary institution says its staff is looking forward to a 96 per cent reduction in spam as it prepares to welcome this fall’s influx of new students.

Grande Prairie Regional College Monday said it had successfully

deployed Ottawa-based Roaring Penguin Software’s CanIt-Pro across its campus as part of a long-fought battle to reduce the volume of unsolicited e-mail messages its staff receive.

According to Karel Jennings, Grande Prairie’s systems technician, employees were complaining at one point of sorting through more than 100 e-mail messages a daySeparating real messages from the spam was critical, however, since may undergraduates are now sending applications to the Student Services department via e-mail.

“”They were no longer able to manually go through the e-mail and reliably choose student e-mail over spam,”” he said. “”Our old system was causing a lot of student e-mail to get blocked. It was a word-list system.””

Jennings said he choose CanIt out of approximately 50 other competing products. As Grande Prairie was already running an old Exchange server, Jennings said it was important to choose an external box, and one that would allow some users to exempt themselves from the filtering process if they choose.

That flexibility is important, said Roaring Penguin president David Skoll, because of the range in computer literacy across many organizations in both the public and private sector.

“”It’s very important that everybody has control over their own e-mail, rather than having some central person decide what’s spam and what isn’t,”” he said. “”Especially in an academic environment, it’s important to put that decision in the hands of the end user.””

Since installing the software in early May, Jennings said staff have seen spam drop considerably to only a handful of messages. The application includes a “”pending”” bin which IT staff spend a few minutes a day checking for messages that might be legitimate.

“”The content isn’t as vulgar,”” he said. “”A lot of people were getting porn, and it was a concern because in student services you have a student standing in line, they see the console of a machine, someone clicks on an e-mail and up pops porn, and then the associated pop-ups.””

Spam has become a contentious issue in the enterprise, particularly in the United States, where a number of potential laws are being drafted to deal with it. Skoll said Roaring Penguin hopes CanIt will turn spam from a huge problem to a minor annoyance.

“”Everybody realizes there’s no way to block 100 per cent of spam,”” he said, “”unless you use something like a challenge response system, which has all of its own problems. We find people’s expectations are pretty reasonable.””

Products will never completely solve the problem, added Jennings, as users need more education about why they end up on so many spammer’s mailing lists.

“”They don’t realize that entering their e-mail address into every little online form will result in spam. That’s where most of the problems are,”” he said.

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