Escalating Spam Wars: Districts Need Multiple Tools to Fight the Rising Tide of Junk

Article excerpt

Imagine that every time you went to grab an item at the supermarket, someone ran up to you and forced you to consider what they were selling. Chances are you'd be shopping at a different supermarket soon. Well, that's the state of e-mail these days. Half the messages received are spam, and it sometimes seems the more you try to fight it, the worse the problem becomes.

Officials at California's San Diego County schools admitted as much. Despite spam filters and blocks, teachers in the district recently started becoming deluged by spam and immediately asked why. District technology coordinators said basically the problem is so bad they don't have enough time to fix all the problems.

Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for technology services in the Plano ISD in Texas, says, "We are blocking more than 60,000 spam messages per week and trying to filter as many as we can without stopping legitimate e-mails from being delivered."

Although districts across the nation have installed protection to curb junk email, spam quadrupled in the past year and now accounts for more than half of all messages received in schools. Sending the annoying messages is fast, cheap and effective, and the stakes are huge. A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 7 percent of e-mail users--more than eight million people--ordered a product or service through unsolicited e-mail, and 33 percent were enticed to click on included links for more information.

The study also concluded that current levels of spam are undermining the integrity of e-mail and degrading the quality of online life. One of every four users say spam caused them to reduce their use of e-mail, even significantly, and three of four say spam cannot be stopped no matter what is done. Processing spam wastes more district time, money and resources than ever, and deleting it has become a daily ritual for staff and students.

Anti-Spam Legislation

Oddly, about 200 individuals are responsible for 90 percent of the spam sent throughout the world, as detailed at Web sites such as Spamhaus. These expert violators continually come up with new ways to bypass filters, including using bogus return addresses and intentionally misspelling key words that many falters track. …