New spam blocker technology released


7 May 2004

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Secure Technologies International has developed a rules-based software tool that it claims can block spam with up to 98pc accuracy. The company is also setting up an organisation in Ireland to sell the product.

The application is simply called StopSpamNow. It has been written for Microsoft Windows and a Linux version is also in development. The product works by checking that any emails sent to a subscriber’s account come from a valid email address. It sends a short reply to that address and if this is unsuccessful or doesn’t reach the recipient, the original mail is then classed as spam.

StopSpamNow also searches all headers in an incoming email, looking for a missing or invalid ‘to’ or ‘from’ address. Missing subject lines or body text are also considered giveaway clues as to likely spam mails.

Based on a series of criteria established by the user, email is classified as spam and quarantined or it is allowed to pass. Users can specify regular correspondents’ email addresses as unconditionally approved, which means that all messages from those senders will arrive. Conditional approval means that only mail conforming to certain rules will be allowed to pass. The final category blocks suspect emails.

These features can be switched on or off and customised as the user requires, said George Hellis, CEO of Secure Technologies International. As the software actually resides on a server farm, much of the processing takes place away from the user’s desktop. “It’s very small to install and light on PC resources. With dialup it’s just as quick to use as it is with broadband,” said Hellis.

All scanning takes place centrally at STI’s server farm, which means that emails can be checked against an existing database of spam addresses, without the need to repeat the process of sending a reply each time. “We have been testing this for nine months with 30,000 people, we have a huge database of spammers and a huge list of spam subject lines and message bodies. We can then check emails against this,” Hellis told siliconrepublic.com. “Our online database is instant. If I found a virus and trashed it, from the moment I do so, it will show up as spam,” he added.

The software also has an ‘undelete’ feature so that if an important email slips through the net, users can choose to download the message if they are satisfied that it is legitimate.

According to Hellis, more than 30,000 evaluation copies of StopSpamNow have been downloaded during the test phase. Now the product is being made commercially available for an annual licence fee of $44.95 that includes all software updates. “It will be improved as we go along,” said Hellis.

The company that will be set up to sell the product will trade as Secure Technologies International and will be based in Ireland, Hellis confirmed. The company currently operates from the Channel Islands. Hellis is no stranger to Ireland, having helped to found Internet Ireland, one of the country’s first ISPs, in the early Nineties.

However the facility to host the software, which is currently based in Canada, is unlikely to be located in Ireland. “I would love to set up a server farm here, but I don’t think I can afford to, it’s too expensive,” said Hellis. The European hub will most likely be located in France, he said.

The product has taken almost two years to develop, at a cost to date of $500,000. Hellis and his partner have funded the venture themselves so far and he defended the decision not to pursue outside investors. “You can get very little for an idea; now we’ve got a product. If we can do this without investment, we will.”

By Gordon Smith