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New system keeps out spam

by Richard Veilleux - August 28, 2006

Users of the University's computer network will notice a major difference in the amount of spam arriving in their e-mail in-boxes this fall.

Technicians from University Information Technology Services (UITS) this summer installed three spam firewall devices on the network, and already the reduction in spam has been nothing short of extraordinary.

The blockers have been on the job since Aug. 14.

Lyndsay Nalbandian, a secretary in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Education, is excited about the change.

"It's wonderful," she says. "It used to be that if you went on vacation, took a day off, or got sick, there were about 30 bazillion spam e-mails when you got back."

Not any more. The spam has been canned.

"We're pretty happy with the new system," says Paul Desmarais, manager of server support at UITS.

"I've received e-mails from a number of people on campus saying thank you, and Mike Kerntke (associate vice president and chief information officer) has been stopped several times on campus by people who noticed the difference."

Since the system's installation, Desmarais says, the firewall has stopped 82 percent of the mail coming into the University before it even reached the mail system.

Another 6 percent was tagged "{SPAM?}" before being sent to the recipient, and the remaining 12 percent was passed through as official mail.

On Aug. 21, for example, of the approximately 167,000 e-mails received at UITS by noon, only 19,000 remained after the spam was eliminated.

The three e-mail scanners - one is essentially a back-up in case of breakdown - are capable of scanning eight million pieces of mail a day.

Desmarais says the company (Barracuda Networks) constantly updates spam definitions, working on new methods to capture spamming as soon as they can. UITS has configured the devices to check for updates daily.

The system cost about $100,000, which includes the spam update service and three years of hardware maintenance. If one of the scanners breaks, Desmarais says, the company guarantees a replacement within 24 hours.

Besides removing a major annoyance from UConn employees' daily tasks, Desmarais says stopping the enemy at the gate also will help the University's e-mail systems operate more smoothly.

"It frees up the whole e-mail infrastructure," he says.

"All the mail systems will have lower volume, which will create storage savings and quicker delivery of e-mail."

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