Campus Explores Methods to Reduce Email Spam

Recently, the amount of incoming spam messages has increased to perhaps unprecedented levels. Some email accounts have received hundreds of daily spam messages starting October 14. The spam messages are somewhat different from previous spam in that some individual email accounts have been targeted more heavily than others, not all messages may have taken advantage of open mail relays and the appearance of extraneous characters appended to the subject lines of the messages. These attributes suggest a concerted spam effort on the part of an individual or group. Although not particularly comforting, we are aware of identical spam being reported at major universities across the United States.

Consistent with the campus Electronic Communications Policy, Information and Educational Technology has taken initial steps to respond to the spam by increasing the number of IP addresses from which we block incoming email messages. This step will help in the short term. However, if the intent of the spam is to constrain campus email resources, the initiator may resort to other mechanisms (such as using other source addresses) to distribute the spam. In addition, we are concerned that blocking email by source address can impact the delivery of legitimate email.

The campus will be exploring alternative spam controls. Such controls typically rely on software controls at the email client or at an email server level. At the either solution level, the products tend to pose operational issues related to the integration with email reader programs, false spam identification, retrieval of messages falsely identified as spam, storage resource requirements, usability concerns and acquisition/implementation costs. IET plans to initiate a project group to help collaborate on a campus-wide solution to the growing spam problem. We have invited campus unit technology staff to participate in this effort. We will post information from these discussions on the security Web site (