An unfortunate byproduct of writing a regular column
is that because my e-mail address is included in my byline, I get a lot of spam. And although my in-box sits behind a corporate gateway that screens the vast majority of unwanted e-mail, 200 to 300 messages a day have been sneaking past our company spam filters lately. That's a lot of mail to wade through, which makes me a good candidate to speak about the effectiveness of recent desktop antispam apps.
Norton AntiSpam drops the ball
Last year, Norton offered its Norton AntiSpam feature from Norton Internet Security as a standalone spam solution. Despite the fact that this brand-name app debuted in an already crowded antispam app field, CNET was wowed and gave it our Editors' Choice. So naturally, we wanted to see what Norton AntiSpam 2005 offered this year. I loaded Norton AntiSpam as soon as I got it and found my computer running slower than molasses whenever new mail hit my in-box. The same thing happened to our reviewer Dan Tynan. And various CNET readers have reported it, too. Given the technical glitches in Norton AntiSpam 2005, we just can't recommend it again this year.
McAfee SpamKiller: not even close
Although my in-box sits behind a corporate gateway that screens the vast majority of unwanted e-mail, 200 to 300 messages a day have been sneaking past our company spam filters.
Prior to Norton AntiSpam, we'd had good experiences with McAfee's offering, so we thought that McAfee SpamKiller 2005
might take the cake this year. SpamKiller made a name for itself with its clever ability to filter spam messages before they arrived in your in-box (SpamKiller uses a third-party server to filter all your e-mail before you download it onto your desktop). Then came SpamAssassin from Deersoft, a product that used an algorithm to filter mail inside your Outlook e-mail client. McAfee soon bought SpamAssassin. You'd think it would've incorporated SpamAssassin's built-in algorithm and perhaps drop the clunky third-party processing of potential e-mail. Nope. Instead, the company absorbed SpamAssassin in some mysterious way and kept the clunky third-party filtering solution. Not only is the new SpamKiller hard to configure, once we got it running, our veteran reviewer Dan Tynan was still on the phone to McAfee, tweaking this and that.
MailFrontier gets it right
In the quest for the perfect spam blocker, we turn to MailFrontier Desktop. When we first reviewed MailFrontier Matador two years ago, it was primarily a challenge-response system. In other words, MailFrontier put on hold every e-mail sent by someone not already in your Outlook contact list until the sender answered a very simple question, thus blocking automated spam machines that can't provide replies. We didn't think the challenge-response approach had much of a chance, and it turns out we were right: most people don't like their identities being challenged. So MailFrontier adapted. This year's software retains the challenge-response system as an option but now functions primarily as a whitelist spam filter with built-in algorithms to figure out if new mail should be classified as spam.
I've been using MailFrontier Desktop for about three weeks now, and I've seen my morning in-box diminish from more than 300 e-mail spam messages to a more manageable 150 or so.
I've been using MailFrontier Desktop for about three weeks now, and I've seen my morning in-box diminish from more than 300 spam messages to a more manageable 150 or so. I no longer see all the garbage characters either; MailFrontier screens out nonsupported foreign language character sets that are usually a surefire sign of spam.
David vs. Goliath
Once again, a tiny company is challenging the big guys, Norton and McAfee, and has a good chance of winning. What's with the two security giants? They've either turned their backs on the consumer market and are simply coasting on name recognition, or they're so set in their ways they can't adapt to the ever-changing security needs of the desktop user, as MailFrontier did. Maybe next year we'll see a more spirited response from the big boys.
Do you have a favorite desktop antispam app to recommend? Talk back to me.