CipherTrust's CTO Talks About Spam

The more successful we are, the more spam the spammers have to send to make up for their lost volume.

John Dickinson, Contributor

February 25, 2005

2 Min Read

As we sat inside a Starbuck's around the corner from the RSA Conference, CipherTrust's Dr. Paul Judge said, "If we had done nothing about spam it wouldn't have reached this level."

What did a leading anti-spam and e-mail security company's chief technology officer mean by that? "The more successful we are, the more spam the spammers have to send to make up for their lost volume," he explained, "and if spam gets through, I have to fix it."

The corollary is that the more spam that gets through, the more fixing Judge and CipherTrust and all of their competitors have to do to fix it, which means that even more spam is produced. It's sort of like a greased pig chase at a rural county fair. "I'm from Georgia," said Judge, "so I know something about greased pigs."

Spam is something of a passion for Judge, but it's not his favorite topic. "I really started out to create secure e-mail systems so people couldn't intrude on other people's business," he said. But then the spam revolution started and CipherTrust's mission and Judge's changed.

Now he knows more about spam and spammers than he'd like to. Besides being chief geek at CipherTrust, he chairs the IETF's Anti-Spam Working Group. He has also worked on CAN-SPAM cases and done a lot of work with lawyers to understand the spam phenomenon.

It's A Legitimate Business, Right?

"The funny thing about spammers," he said, "is that they think they're doing legitimate business." Judge says that they're not particularly criminally minded, they have just found a way to make fast money, something everyone dreams about.

Judge cited the case of Jeremy Jaynes, the Virginia-based spammer who was famously arrested and convicted under the CAN-SPAM law last year. "He had built up a huge fortune, lived in a giant mansion, drove expensive cars, the whole thing," said Judge, "he was legit as far as he was concerned, especially because he supported his whole family." That included his sister, who was also convicted. Jaynes was sentenced to spend nine years of his young life in jail.

But all that aside, Judge thinks that most companies he deals with have spam under control in some way or another. "We're back to where we were three or four years ago before all this started," he said. How does he measure that? "Today 98% of my conversations with customers are about compliance and secure e-mail delivery," he said, "they don't need to talk about spam anymore."

Encrypted e-mail is now at about 15% of all legitimate e-mail volume, Judge said, and he expects it to grow quickly. "If all legitimate e-mail is encrypted, much of the spam problem will go away because unencrypted e-mail will get ignored."

For more information about CipherTrust and Dr. Paul Judge, visit www.ciphertrust.com.

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