August 24, 2004
"SpamAssassin": Easing the Burden of Spam for Organizations, Users, and Especially Sys Admins
Sebastopol, CA--The annoyance factor for individual users whose email is
crammed with pitches for pornography, absurd moneymaking schemes, and
dubious health products is fierce. For organizations, the cost of spam in
lost productivity and burned bandwidth is astronomical. But the primary
responsibility for dealing with the burgeoning crisis of spam
proliferation falls on the shoulders of system administrators, says Alan
Schwartz, author of SpamAssassin (O'Reilly, US $24.95).
"System administrators pay for spam with their time," explains Schwartz.
"The Internet's email system was designed to make it difficult to lose
email messages: when a computer can't deliver a message to the intended
recipient, it does its best to return that message to the sender. If it
can't send the message to the sender, it sends it to the computer's
postmaster--because something must be seriously wrong if both the email
addresses of the sender and the recipient of a message are invalid."
This well-meaning nature of Internet mail software becomes a positive
liability when spammers come into the picture. As Schwartz points out, "In
a typical bulk mailing, anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands
of email addresses might be invalid. Under normal circumstances, these
email messages would bounce back to the sender. But the spammer doesn't
want them! To avoid being overwhelmed, spammers often use invalid return
addresses. The result: the email messages end up in the mailboxes of the
Internet postmasters, who are usually living, breathing system administrators."
With the onus of finding a solution to this massive problem--and fast--sys
admins have many spam-fighting options available, but these often turn out
to be too aggressive, too passive, or too complicated to set up.
SpamAssassin has emerged as the most widely deployed anti-spam tool on the
Internet today. SpamAssassin works on a rule-based system that analyzes
email and compares different parts of messages with a large set of rules.
Each rule adds or removes points from a message's spam score, and if the
resulting score is high enough, the message is reported as spam. In
addition to being free, powerful, and highly regarded, SpamAssassin is
remarkably effective because it's easy for sys admins to fine tune the
scoring process for their users' needs. The drawback? Until now,
SpamAssassin's lack of published documentation.
SpamAssassin clarifies the installation, configuration, and use of the
SpamAssassin spam-checking system (versions 2.63 and 3.0) for Unix system
administrators using the Postfix, sendmail, Exim, or qmail mail servers.
Readers will learn how to:
Customize SpamAssassin's rules, and even create new ones
Train SpamAssassin's Bayesian classifier to optimize it for the sort of
email users typically receive
Block specific addresses, hosts, and domains using third-party blacklists
Whitelist known good sources of email so that messages from clients,
coworkers, and friends aren't lost
Configure SpamAssassin to work with newer spam-filtering methods such as
Hashcash (www.hashcash.org) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
SpamAssassin is for mail system administrators, network administrators,
and Internet service providers or anyone who wants to regain some control
over the growing nuisance of spam.
ISBN 0-596-00707-8, 207 pages, $24.95 US, $36.95 CA
O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
Return to: O'Reilly Press Room
Recent Press Releases
Press Release Archive »
Media Relations - North America
Media Relations - Germany
Media Relations - Japan
Media Relations - United Kingdom
Media Relations - Conferences