20 Second Protection – From Cloudmark

October 28, 2005

20 Second Protection – From Cloudmark

20 Second Protection – From Cloudmark

by Carol Baroudi and Robin Bloor, Partners

We have not canned the spam.
We have not caught the phish.
We cannot prevent viruses as much as we wish.

Enough already. Spam filters, virus protection, spoof proofing. We do everything we?re supposed to do and the issues don?t go away. We?ve all but given up on completely ridding ourselves of these problems and make do with a patchwork of point solutions, praying that we don? t screen out too much good stuff and don?t get hit with the bad. What a way to live

Neither Prevention Nor Cure

Anti-spam laws in the US and Europe were supposed to can the spam. They didn?t. The spammers went illegal ? collaborating with virus writers, in order to subvert an army of home PCs and poorly policed business computers. They use these zombied machines with impunity to distribute their unwelcome messages: spam, phishing scams and more viruses to recruit more zombies.

If spamming and scamming weren?t profitable, they wouldn?t be happening. But they are profitable. That spam mortgage offer that keeps dropping into your in-box doesn?t come from a mortgage company. However, if you respond, you opt in, and the spammer sells the lead to a real mortgage company. It becomes legit. And one response in a million is enough to keep spamming profitable.

Anti-spam technology wages a continuing war against creative spammers who change tactics regularly. Some of the spam still gets through and legitimate email gets caught in anti-spam defenses.

The phishing industry has grown more sophisticated as well. No longer do phishers trawl for victims with mass mailings. They target a small numbers of victims, sending out a few thousand emails that look legitimate enough to thwart the spam barriers and run their scam for just an hour or two. Traditional email security techniques can?t respond quickly enough to catch and stop this kind of attack.

The Best Laid Plans?

The problem with our ad hoc approaches is that they are just that ? ad hoc. They are by no means comprehensive and they are aimed at fixing our particular set of problems ? not eradicating the problems at large.  We have spam filters to catch the spam. We have virus protection to ward off viruses. But there?s no intergalactic authority prevailing to truly rid us of either.

Virus protection typically relies on detecting a virus, providing a virus signature, distributing the signature and then the actual download of the signature by virus protection software. Spam filtering is typically automated using various algorithms (and white lists and black lists) that go a long way toward diminishing spam but are subject to vulnerabilities in the algorithms themselves ? and rely on learning and time ? no obstacle to the focused attack.

Shifting the Fulcrum ? Cloudmark Leverages a User Base 50 Million Strong

?Give me a long enough lever, and I will move the earth,? said Archimedes. Leverage fifty million users and we have a chance of radically reducing the efficacy of spam and scams.

Here?s what Cloudmark is doing: Combining sophisticated spam detection with real-time feedback from reliable users, Cloudmark can stop spam and phishing attacks in as little as 20 seconds.  As e-mail users are the ultimate arbiters of what is and what is not spam, Cloudmark employs the experts within their midst. It rates the reliability of its users and then uses reliable users? identification of spam and phishing attacks to automatically update Cloudmark software everywhere to virtually annihilate attacks before they spread.

No matter whether it is implemented on the desktop, on a server, as a gateway or on an email service, all of Cloudmark?s installations are connected, providing email feedback and receiving new spam recognition information in real time. The beauty is that the more Cloudmark is used, the better it gets ? the more people using it, the faster fraudulent mail is identified.  Compared to the day or two often required to get a new virus signature, 20 seconds feels like a miracle cure.

Hurwitz Take:

Taking the window of opportunity away from email marauders could well change the economics that fuel mail fraud.  And it is for this reason that we are so very taken by Cloudmark?s approach to the spam/phishing/virus proliferation problem. Cloudmark?s approach is not only proving highly effective for its users, but also, we believe, has the potential to make the world of IT a better place. Our top request to Cloudmark is for a desktop client for Mozilla Thunderbird.



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