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Brunel turns spam filtering on its head to meet compliance needs

Bill Goodwin

Brunel University is planning to use technology originally developed to filter spam e-mails to help it identify and act on time-critical requests, including Freedom of Information Act enquiries and requests for prospectuses.

The university plans to exploit the pattern-recognition capabilities of its Ironmail anti-spam appliances to identify e-mails that require a rapid response, even if they are sent to the wrong person.

The project will help the university meet its compliance duties as a public body, said Iain Liddell, policy development manager in the university’s IT department.

“We have a duty of regulatory compliance. All local authorities are bound by the Nolan principles of public life and we have to take that seriously,” he said.

The university has a duty to respond to Freedom of Information requests within 20 days of receipt, even if the request is sent to the wrong person.

Brunel also plans to introduce an archiving system that will allow it to retrieve e-mails in the event of a legal dispute or a systems failure.

It has been working with internet security product supplier Secure Computing to develop the anti-spam algorithms to identify Freedom of Information applications as well as requests from students for prospectuses.

The development follows work to refine the anti-spam system to take better account of the fact that some parts of the university, such as medical departments, legitimately send and receive e-mails that would be trapped by conventional spam filters.

Brunel University plans to implement the project later his year on its existing two Ironmail spam appliances.

A third appliance, fitted last year, acts as a dedicated quarantine, reducing the processing load on other units.

The anti-spam filters should reduce the university’s bandwidth and storage requirements by 40%, said Liddell.

Related article: E-mail security buying decisions

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