Canadian-made spam filter sorts out IEEE mail

An organization that helps establish the world’s IT standards is using Roaring Penguin anti-spam software to police its own e-mail.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic

Engineers Inc., better known the IEEE, has adopted the Ottawa firm’s CanIt-PRO software to filter spam from its 130,000 e-mail users around the globe.

The IEEE, based in Piscataway, N.J., provides an alias service to its members whereby they are provided accounts which forward mail to an existing ISP.

Matthew Persons, senior systems administrator for the IEEE, said that the organization considered a variety of spam-filtering tools, but “”most of them were geared towards being centrally managed and didn’t give us the capability to allow our members to do their own spam-filtering or choose their own options.””

IEEE e-mail users can set their preferred level of spam filtering themselves — tagging incoming spam, filtering out the spam altogether or opting out of the service. “”We recommend tagging so they get an idea of how the software is working,”” said Persons.

Before adopting Roaring Penguin, the IEEE had no way of managing the amount of spam being directed at its members. “”We got several complaints from members in all different types of languages. I would say (the spam) was considerable,”” said Persons, adding that the worst affected area was in the U.S.

The fact that the IEEE is a prominent IT organization that uses e-mail as the primary means to communicate with its widespread membership was not lost on Roaring Penguin president and CEO David Skoll.

“”I trained as an electrical engineer so it’s actually very gratifying for me to have the IEEE using the software,”” he said.

The IEEE manages twice as many e-mail accounts as Roaring Penguin’s second largest customer. “”Getting that level of scalability was a bit of a challenge for us — to structure the software so that it would work under those circumstances, but we did it,”” said Skoll.

In 2003, 208 million messages were processed through the IEEE infrastructure — a number that Persons expects to double this year.

But the main difference between Roaring Penguin’s other clientele — largely composed of post-secondary institutions — and the IEEE is the way they handle policy management. “”A university would probably give a lot more detailed control to certain users because there are freedom of speech issues. But that tends to be more of a concern in an academic environment,”” said Skoll.

Roaring Penguin is in the process of integrating its software with IEEE’s Web portal so users can manage all their IEEE preferences, including spam settings, from one location. Right now it’s a separate log in.

The IEEE has been using CanIt-Pro since last November. Persons said he has no hard and fast numbers of the level of spam reduction, but anecdotally, members say it catches about 90 per cent of unwanted messages.

“”Doing evaluations of the (anti-spam) software that’s out there, we realized there’s no solution that’s 100 per cent. But providing members with a tool than can help mitigate the amount of spam that we get was something that we were looking for,”” said Persons.

Another recent association customer of Roaring Penguin is the Canadian Mathematical Society. The company is also targeting ISPs as a potential customer base.

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