The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 51.0°F | A Few Clouds

I/S Installing Mail Filter

By Marissa Vogt

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

The SpamAssassin e-mail filter has been installed and has been active on MIT post office servers since Jan. 11, but Information Systems will delay an official announcement until the week of March 10.

Software Release Team Leader Jonathan M. Hunt ’98 said, “We want to make sure Web pages on how to make use of it and documentation are up.” After the official announcement, “there will be QuickStart computing classes to help teach people how to use it,” he said

One member of the Student Information Processing Board said that the delay in announcement is because Information Systems hit a few snags turning SpamAssassin on and off.

In the meantime, SpamAssassin will generally be unused by the MIT community. People who know of the filter’s existence and how to configure their mail clients to work with SpamAssassin will be able to use the filter, but little help will be available for those who do not.

SpamAssassin scores and filters

SpamAssassin is a free software product designed to filter unsolicited commercial e-mail, or spam. It scores incoming e-mail by ranking how much each piece resembles spam based on preset rules. Users can configure their mail readers to move the spam into a separate mailbox or delete it.

Some quirky SpamAssassin rules used to identify spam include fonts colored in magenta, the presence of the word “guarantee” in all capital letters, instructions on how to increase the size or length of anatomical structures, and encouragement to participate in illegal Nigerian transactions, according to the SpamAssassin Web site, <http://www.spamassassin.org>.

SpamAssassin is currently installed on all of the MIT post office servers and will work when one downloads mail to their own mail client. “Eventually it will work with webmail,” Hunt said.

“If you view the full headers of incoming mail you see numbers. Higher than 7.5 is considered spam,” said Matthew K. Belmonte, a member of the Student Information Processing Board.

Those who are unaware of the SpamAssassin installation should not notice any difference in the number of spam e-mails they receive because the filter only works if a separate mailbox or folder is created for spam.