The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

[SPAM] Filling up your inbox? Blame the Barracuda

By Federico Burlon

A recent increase in the volume of e-mail spam has led users to question the effectiveness of the Oracle Collaboration Suite e-mail system that the college began using last year.

A widespread spam increase has contributed to a rise in complaints to Information Technology Services staff members.

“I get a lot of [spam], from body slimmer to job advertisements,” said Devin Foster ’07. Others said that the spam they receive comes more often from mailing lists or student organizations and not so much from outside campus.

Ted Fines, the Assistant Director for Network Services, said that spam has increased by about 40 percent compared to last year’s figures. In a normal day, of the 200,000 incoming mails, 180,000 are spam or virus.

However, Fines said, “the OCS e-mail system has nothing to do with spam. What we use for fighting spam is a gateway filter, not OCS.”

Any e-mail managing system is vulnerable to spam.

The system Macalester uses to fight spam is called Barracuda. The system was introduced one year ago and “does a better job” than its predecessor, Fines said.

Barracuda is a filter installed in the OCS mailroom through which all incoming e-mails travel. Its predecessor was a monthly service to which Macalester subscribed. All incoming messages were directed to it for filtering and then returned to OCS to be sent to e-mail accounts.

Apart from checking for spam with filters customized for Macalester, Barracuda offers virus protection.

Barracuda has cost Macalester “between $3000 and $4000” according to Fines. Macalester also pays an annual fee of $600 for hourly updates of the filters. Fines said that over time, Barracuda will turn out to be cheaper than its predecessor.

Spam is a problem at many other universities, as well. For that reason Macalester is in contact with other institutions among which Barracuda is a popular choice.
“Barracuda is used by many other schools,” Fines said. “No one has come up yet with a better system.”

In a recent anti-spam product survey of 20 other liberal arts colleges, 7 preferred Barracuda.

Despite the advantages of Barracuda, users of the OCS e-mail system still receive spam in their mailboxes.

“People getting [on-campus spam] must let us know. They must call the ITS Help Desk because that can be solved,” he said.

He also pointed out that the origins of this kind of spam are usually careless mistakes and that there have been no complaints of this kind of spam this year.

Regarding the spam from outside campus that penetrates the Barracuda filter, Fines said that there are several tools that people could use to fight it. For instance, the OCS system has its own spam filters, which can be customized. Also, “people can use [Mozilla] Thunderbird which has pretty good Spam management,” he said.

OCS users can also use Barracuda to personally configure their own spam filters. This tool is available on the web:

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