Mailblocks antispam service promises end to spam

The latest antispam service aimed at consumers launched yesterday, promising a total end to annoying spam and to correctly...

The latest antispam service aimed at consumers launched yesterday, promising a total end to annoying spam and to correctly identify wanted e-mails.

Phil Goldman, chief executive officer of Mailblocks, said the service does without common spam-prevention filtering methods, such as heuristics and blacklisting, with something called "challenged response".

Similar to other methods where the protected user’s e-mail account automatically asks the sender to verify an initial e-mail message, the challenged response sends a generated message asking the sender to type in a provided seven-digit number into a box in the e-mail. Since only an authentic sender can type in the number correctly, and a computer-generated spam mailer cannot issue such a response, the e-mail is then perceived to be authentic and added to the recipient’s accepted senders list. 

"We’ve turned the problem around," said Goldman. "We’re defeating the spammers’ computers. We’re not allowing them to send spam to you." 

The service will cost $9.95 (£6.30) per year for standard service with 12Mbyte of storage, or $24.95 (£15.83) a year for up to 50Mbyte of storage. Attachments of up to 6Mbyte can be sent with each message. Standard-service subscribers will get two years of free service as a bonus as an incentive with the service’s debut. 

The difference between Mailblocks and other response-generated e-mail services, Goldman said, is that other services can be tricked by spammers if they issue a Perl script automated response, which is not possible using the seven-digit code. 

The service can accessed through Mailblocks’ web page or by using Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express or Eudora e-mail clients. 

Other benefits include immediate access to a user’s inbox upon log-in, rather than to ad-filled home pages with free e-mail alternatives, such as Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail. 

The challenged response technology has been patented by Mailblocks, and the company is actively searching partners to license it and bring its capabilities to enterprise e-mail systems such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, Goldman said. 

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