Student inboxes may no longer be consistently flooded with spam e-mails, after University Information Services activates a new e-mail filtering program it announced earlier this week.

Appropriately called Ironports, the mail filtering program will supplement the university’s current spam service, Spamhaus, UIS Director Beth Ann Bergsmark said.

The program will rate each e-mail message sent to a GUMail account based on several criteria, including its traffic pattern, header, origin and message pattern, Bergsmark said. Based on how harmful the e-mail message seems, the program will either let it through, block it or let it through with a “suspect” tag in the header. UIS plans to apply the filter to all university e-mail.

“We do expect a positive response, as spam is one of the more annoying downsides of e-mail,” Bergsmark said.

Spam has become a top complaint that UIS receives from faculty and staff, Bergsmark said, and students have also increasingly raised complaints about spam. Although Spamhaus catches 300,000 to 400,000 pieces of spam each day, spammers have managed to find news means of bypassing filters and reaching student accounts, she added.

UIS ran a test run of the Ironports program with faculty and staff over winter break. Bergsmark said that the feedback was “very positive” and added that she hopes that the student body is equally supportive.

Molly Shaffer (COL ’09) said that the system could be helpful, depending on the effectiveness of the new service.

“What can be annoying is when it marks messages as spam that aren’t really spam,” Shaffer said. “It really depends on how the program is written and what indicators of spam it’s looking for.”

UIS installed Spamhaus in 2004 after discovering that 20 percent of all e-mails passing through the GUMail system were spam. Spamhaus compares e-mails passing through the system to a list of known spam mail relays and origination sites and blocks possible spam based on the results of this comparison.

While Spamhaus has been effective, Bergsmark said that Ironports will have “a higher catch for spam because it performs more analysis.”

Kelsey Elders (SFS ’09), however, notes that effective spam filters are already in place for e-mail services such as Gmail.

“Gmail has managed to create a good spam filter,” Elders said. “I can’t see why Georgetown couldn’t do the same.”

Students who do not want their e-mail messages filtered can remove themselves from Ironports on the UIS Web site.

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