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Wired Magazine Says Spam Filters Suck

By Ken Simpson | 1 minute read

Now that I am in San Francisco for the MAAWG conference, I feel it is only appropriate that I give a plug to the magazine that made geekdome cool. Wired has a feature this month on “why things suck” (with the comedic input of Sarah Silverman). One of their top picks: Spam Filters. Brendan I. Koerner writes:

The most obvious problem is that it’s simply not possible to update filtering software frequently enough to catch all of the spammers’ multifarious innovations — disguising unsolicited messages by replacing the “i” in Viagra with a “1” or using images in lieu of text, for example. At the same time, an overly aggressive approach can be disastrous, trapping legitimate email as false positives.

I think the Viagra example is a simplification, but the idea that filters are too slow to adapt is accurate. In my talk later this week, I will posit a theory that even as filters become faster, there is always going to be a computational mismatch between the spammers and the filters — one that the filters will always lose.

Comments are welcome — they will help me to hone my pitch.

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