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Filter - Cynthia L. Webb
Spamming for Dollars

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_____About Filter_____
Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.

_____Filter Archive_____
Gmail Supply and Demand (washingtonpost.com, May 21, 2004)
HP's No Gloating Zone (washingtonpost.com, May 19, 2004)
Cisco and IBM Make 'Net Ring Tones (washingtonpost.com, May 18, 2004)
Outsourcing: Come Sail Away With IT (washingtonpost.com, May 17, 2004)
Dell Can't Get No Respect (washingtonpost.com, May 14, 2004)
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By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, May 20, 2004; 9:30 AM

Fighting spam has turned into such a big business that anti-spam companies are becoming a hot commodity of their own.

Computer security firm Symantec is scooping up Brightmail, a San Francisco-based anti-spam and security software maker, in a $370 million cash deal, the company announced yesterday. It's a different exit strategy for Brightmail, which had filed plans to go public in hopes of raising some $80 million.

The decision bucks the trend set by Google and other companies, including BlueNile, to trust in the Street as the technology sector mends.

"The move suggests that despite so-called Google fever, entrepreneurs and their backers are considering various options in the face of a still-uncertain IPO market. Some venture capitalists are pushing private companies to merge rather than take the public-offering route, as a revenue-producing company can command almost as large a valuation with a sale as it would with an IPO. Brightmail, which reported revenue of $26 million in 2003, had received backing from several venture-capital firms, including Accel Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures, both of Palo Alto, Calif.," The Wall Street Journal reported. The paper noted that Symantec already held a roughly 11 percent stake in the company, but wanted to buy Brightmail to boost its security products.
The Wall Street Journal: Symantec To Buy Brightmail, Averting An IPO (Subscription required)

The San Jose Mercury News said the acquisition "gives Symantec a foothold in one of the hottest areas of computer security -- helping customers filter out billions of unwanted e-mail messages. Spam increasingly is seen as not just an annoyance but also as a security threat. The mass messages often carry computer worms and viruses. Symantec, the maker of Norton anti-virus software, has been working to offer businesses a wider array of computer security products and services." On that note, CNET's News.com reported that Symantec has acquired a number of companies in the past two years, including SafeWeb and On Technology.
The San Jose Mercury News: Symantec To Buy Anti-Spam Company (Registration required)
CNET's News.com: Symantec To Buy Brightmail

Symantec's competitors have also been on a buying spree. "Symantec and its closest rival Network Associates Inc. have been acquiring smaller computer security companies as they seek to offer a wider package of network and computer security to large businesses. Spam has become a growing concern for companies and individuals, resulting in clogged network traffic and wasted productivity in the time people spend to eliminate unwanted ads touting everything from miracle herbs to get-rich-quick schemes," Reuters said.
Reuters: Symantec To Acquire Antispam Company Brightmail

Symantec explained more about why it decided to acquire Brightmail, which was already a partner for the company. "Spam has increasingly become one of the most severe threats to individuals and enterprises today, topping viruses as the number one problem plaguing email systems and administrators," said John W. Thompson, Symantec chairman and chief executive, in a statement. Steve Cullen, Symantec's senior vice president of security products and solutions, told the Merc: "We are big believers that to protect against these blended threats, you really do need to have multiple technologies."

The Associated Press detailed how Brightmail's technology works. "San Francisco-based Brightmail provides software that uses filters and other proprietary technologies to block spam at the customer's Internet gateway, the point at which Internet traffic enters the public network. Brightmail's corporate customers include eBay Inc., Deutsche Bank, Cisco Systems Inc. and Bechtel Corp. It also provides spam protection to major Internet service providers, including AT&T WorldNet, Cox Communications, EarthLink, MSN and Verizon Online.
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Symantec To Buy Antispam Firm For $370 Million

Sex and the Single Spammer

In other spam news, sexually explicit spam now must be clearly labeled per a new Federal Trade Commission rule that went into effect yesterday. The rule is mandated by a six-month-old national anti-spam law that already is under fire from a number of different quarters for being ineffective in cutting the amount of junk mail flooding the nation's in-boxes. Speaking for myself, I got a slew of shady e-mails this morning alone that weren't kid-friendly and bore no label... Indeed, to the spam industry this rule might be nothing more than a hiccup, despite assurances from the rule's supporters who will say, "just give it time."

More on the rule, courtesy of The Associated Press: "The rule also bars graphic images from appearing in the opening body of the message. Instead, the recipient must take some action in order to see the objectionable material, either by scrolling down in the e-mail or by clicking on a provided link. Spammers who violate the rule face possible imprisonment and criminal fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for an organization. But tracking down violators can be difficult because spammers often try to escape being directly identified by using forged return addresses or by bouncing their e-mails through unprotected relay computers on the Internet."
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: FTC Requiring Labels On Explicit Spam (Registration required)

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