November 18, 2004
Vol. 24 No. 5

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    NSIT engages anti-spam system for e-mail accounts

    By Peter Schuler
    News Office

    Networking Services and Information Technologies has introduced the use of a new spam-tagging and virus-filtering system, which became available to all University e-mail account users beginning Thursday, Oct. 28.

    The new system blocks identifiable viruses in e-mail messages sent to any “@uchicago.edu” and “@midway.uchicago.edu” address, and identifies probable spam with a tag on the subject line visible to the recipient. In the near future, probable spam will be held in a temporary quarantine, and account holders will receive a daily list of quarantined messages with instructions on releasing messages if necessary.

    “Unfortunately, it is impossible to block all viruses or spam, but this system will dramatically reduce the amount of junk e-mail delivered to our users,” said Greg Jackson, Vice-President and Chief Information Officer for the University. “Because of the volume of requests we have had for this service, we automatically enabled it for all users.” No activation is necessary on the part of account holders.

    NSIT’s new Junkmail program scans all incoming mail, looks for certain message characteristics and scores the message accordingly: all viruses and spam scoring higher than 90 points are quarantined. The program uses several hundred spam tests to analyze messages, with each spam test assigned a numerical weight. When Junkmail analyzes a message, the weights from the spam tests are added up and converted to a spam score, which expresses the message’s “spam probability.”

    For viruses, Junkmail uses antivirus definitions similar to the antivirus software individuals install on their personal computers. Messages identified as viruses are blocked from delivery to the mail servers.

    “We hope this new service will help improve the quality of everyone’s e-mail experience,” Jackson said.