Over-zealous spam filter causes problems

| 20/08/2008

(CNS): A spam blocker caused significant problems to the government network and has been turned off. In a release yesterday, Computer Services explained that additional spam filter criteria were added to the system on Tuesday, 12 August, to help catch more spam messages. However, the filters did more than intended, and in addition to blocking spam mail, it also identified and blocked some legitimate messages.

This continued occurring even after several adjustments were made to the filter’s reject/delete settings, and it was therefore turned off two days later on Thursday, 14 August.

Responding to media reports that some government workers were finding that innocuous emails were received with the message “BANNED CONTENT ALERT”, the release said that filters are regularly upgraded to keep spam levels down (as spammers continuously renew their efforts to get information through to users), and that on average the Cayman Islands Government receives upwards of 23.6 million e-mail messages monthly (about 760,000 or more daily). Of those messages 60 – 80 per cent (14 -19 million) are spam – messages containing, for example, foul language, pornography, nudity or other unsolicited commercial junk mail.

The Computer Services Department uses several types of spam blockers, and each has its own criteria for identifying and rejecting unsolicited or inappropriate mail. Also, each blocker is modified regularly to help limit the amount of spam that slips into users’ inboxes. But even with these in place, the department has been able to successfully block only 67% of spam e-mails.

“Computer Services is intent on doing all it can to address the spam problem, and to meet government’s needs will continue in its efforts to upgrade its filters. The volume of spam messages received by core government on a monthly basis is tremendous. Without spam blockers they would eventually overwhelm and clog the system, preventing legitimate messages from passing between users,” the release said..


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