College Bolsters Arsenal Against 'Spam,' E-Mail Viruses

Published 06.06.2002


Information Technology Services has installed and configured some new e-mail services that should help protect Pennsylvania College of Technology student and employee e-mail accounts from being flooded with unwanted mail or infected with viruses.

As of May 24, "spam" blocking was implemented for both employee and student e-mail, and virus checking has been implemented for student e-mail (employee e-mail already was being checked for viruses). All incoming mail now is sent through a server, where it is checked against a database of known "spam" senders and relays. This database is known as a Realtime Blackhole List, or RBL.

If the sender of the e-mail is listed in the RBL database, the e-mail is rejected by the College's system. The RBL process currently is the best solution available for stopping "spam," but it is not perfect. Like a new virus, a "spam" sender must send its first e-mail before someone can classify it as "spam" and add it to the database to be blocked. College students and employees still may get some unwanted and unsolicited e-mail, but this checking should drastically reduce the volume.

If the message passes the RBL check, it is then checked for viruses. If a virus is found, a message will be sent to the sender and the e-mail is blocked from being delivered. If no viruses are found, messages will be delivered either to a student NIMS user or forwarded to the employee GroupWise system. If it is delivered to the Groupwise system, another server makes three additional checks Address Blocking, Attachment Blocking and a second virus-scanning process. If it passes all three of these checks, it is finally delivered to the GroupWise user.

These processes will log the number of messages rejected; so far, ITS reports that about 10,000 messages a day are being rejected as "spam" and about 100 a day are being rejected as carrying viruses. The department hopes this new process will help reduce the e-mail clutter that "spam" creates and let College students and employees concentrate on the important messages.