Cloudmark taps P-to-P to fight spam

Attempting to take combat the insidious problem of unwanted e-mail, commonly referred to as "spam," Cloudmark Inc. on Wednesday introduced SpamNet, a Microsoft Outlook add-in tool designed to block spam from reaching users' inboxes.

SpamNet leverages a peer-to-peer architecture to develop a community-based approach to fighting spam.

"Spam is of course a distributed problem," said Karl Jacob, CEO of Cloudmark in San Francisco. "It is classic p-to-p network, where people on the network download a client, which talks to one of many servers distributed throughout the world."

Attempting to leverage widespread frustration with spam, SpamNet allows users to block spam messages from their inboxes and automatically share that information with the SpamNet network, according to company officials.

Rather than deleting e-mail messages, SpamNet moves unwanted e-mail to a designated spam folder. Every time a user uses the one-click block feature to remove spam from their inbox, they also notify the SpamNet community at large. The notification then automatically blocks spam for all other SpamNet community members. Company officials claim the product can stop 75 percent of spam automatically.

Addressing security concerns that often travel hand in hand with p-to-p systems, Cloudmark does not share files, unlike p-to-p based file sharing systems like Napster, Jacob said.

"The add-in runs inside Outlook so there is absolutely no file access whatsoever," he said.

In addition, SpamNet provides unique identifiers for each message it receives from users, according to Jacob.

"When Cloudmark receives an e-mail it calculates a unique cryptographic signature for the message and sends that signature to server," he said.

Although this product launch targets consumers, the company plans to launch an enterprise solution in the next two to three months.

The enterprise offering will install on enterprise mail servers and will leverage the real-time spam network in combination with other new technology to fight spam at a higher level, Jacob said.

The beta version of SpamNet is available now, free of charge from the Cloudmark Web site.

As the spam problem escalates, many services and tools have popped up to provide relief.

Mail-Filters.com this month announced two spam fighting tools for businesses. SpamRepellent for Businesses is a hosted service designed to filter junk e-mail before it arrives at the customer site. SpamCure for Enterprises is a server-based system that filters e-mail at the customer site, according to Mail-Filters officials in San Mateo, Calif.

Furthermore, IronPort Systems next week plans to introduce a service designed to help enterprises distinguish legitimate e-mail messages from spam.

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