In spam filter’s second month, lack of porn pleased students

Thanks to the University’s new spam-blocking software, there are almost 3 million spam messages – about 16 gigabytes worth – currently quarantined on the Brown server, according to Stephanie Birdsall, lead communications specialist at Computing and Information Services.

Even though “there are good weeks and there are bad weeks,” Birdsall said, there has been an “overall exponential decline” in spam received by e-mail users since the spam-blocking software was implemented Feb. 14.

“It was our Valentine’s Day gift to the campus,” she said.

The spam blocker, produced by Proofpoint Inc., initially cost the University $60,000 and will require yearly “license maintenance costs,” Birdsall said. The software was not originally provided for in the CIS budget.

She said though there have not been any major glitches with the product, there was some initial “increased traffic at the Help Desk.”

“But that really has almost disappeared … as people have incorporated it into their daily lives,” Birdsall added.

She said the spam-blocking software is always being updated in a “constant race with the spammers.” Proofpoint Inc. adjusts its formulas and upgrades are automatically sent to Brown, she said.

Spam messages listed in the digest are quarantined on the Brown server for 30 days before being deleted.

The spam-blocking software has received praise from the Brown community.

“I am getting less anonymous e-mails,” said Brooke Wolfe ’07.

Joe Griffith ’05 also said he appreciated the Proofpoint program. “It’s nice that 95 percent of my e-mails are real and aren’t junk. I regularly check the spam digest and I only caught one real e-mail message. It was a (Thefacebook.com) group invite … so it was borderline (spam).”

According to Birdsall, “People have been thrilled” with the reduction in spam and CIS is still receiving thank you e-mails “telling us what a huge difference this has made.”

Birdsall said it was a fun project for CIS to take on. CIS specialists spent a few months evaluating spam-blocking software before deciding on Proofpoint, which they “put on the fast track … to get it to the community as soon as possible,” she said.

“We spend a lot of time on projects that don’t have such visibility on campus,” Birdsall said, “so it was great to work on something that had a positive and immediate impact on campus.”

“I think it really made a difference,” she added.