Filtering Companies Say Spammers Ignore CAN-SPAM

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Spammers have shown little interest in complying with the federal anti-spam law since it took effect in January, according to studies released yesterday.

Audiotrieve, a Boxborough, MA, spam-filtering company, reported that 86 percent of the unsolicited commercial e-mail messages it studied in a recent three-day period violated some aspect of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Audiotrieve looked at 1,000 e-mails received Feb. 6-8 at so-called honey-pot accounts set up to attract spam. A month earlier, Audiotrieve gauged the non-compliance rate at 90 percent.

MX Logic, a Denver filtering company, rated spammers' performance even worse. It gauged compliance at 3 percent over the past 30 days, using a random sample of 10,000 unsolicited e-mails received over four weeks ending Feb. 6. The compliance rate bettered the 1 percent MX Logic found in a sampling of 1,000 e-mails a month earlier.

Under the CAN-SPAM Act, violators could be subject to fines of $250 per e-mail in actions brought by state attorneys general and $11,000 fines from the Federal Trade Commission.

Audiotrieve found that only 143 of the messages met CAN-SPAM's requirements for an e-mail return address, honest subject line, physical address and unsubscribe function. The company did not try to validate the physical address and unsubscribe function.

Brightmail reported last week that some of the spam it intercepted included fake physical addresses and opt-out functions to evade spam filters. At least some of the spam messages Audiotrieve found trumpeted this fact.

Both Postini and Brightmail report that spam levels have not abated since CAN-SPAM took effect Jan. 1. According to Postini, 79 percent of the e-mail passing through its system in January was spam, compared with 80 percent in December. Likewise, Brightmail said 60 percent of the e-mail it filtered was spam versus 58 percent a month earlier.

Analysts predict spammers will not heed the law until high-profile enforcement actions are taken by the FTC, state attorneys general and Internet service providers.

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