Sendmail searches for antispam testers

Company takes a first stab at software to authenticate the source of e-mail messages.

Sendmail has taken a first stab at software to authenticate the source of e-mail messages, a technology that will be key to preventing the proliferation of spam.

The company released a module for its Sendmail e-mail server software that attempts to verify the source of messages to help Internet users block mail from unwanted senders. The technique is part of a developing Internet standard known as Sender ID.

"What authenticating does is allow you to rely on who sent the message," said David Anderson, CEO of Sendmail, a maker of e-mail software. "We believe people will stop filtering out bad messages based on bad content and instead allow good messages with good senders."

The majority of e-mail carried across the Internet uses the open-source Sendmail program, which runs on the Linux and Unix operating systems. The new module for the program allows e-mail administrators to modify their systems and add the authentication technology. The e-mail server will then forward messages with the necessary Sender ID information and authenticate incoming e-mail messages using the system.

Sender ID is a hybrid specification created from the Caller ID for E-mail system proposed by Microsoft and another antispam technology known as Sender Policy Framework that was developed by Meng Wong, the founder of e-mail service The specification has not been finalized by the Internet Engineering Task Force, the technical group that sets Net standards.

"We want to get this thing accepted, because it has the best functionality and shortest deployment time of any of the choices right now," Anderson said.

Sendmail is distributing a test version of the software to get enough companies onboard and gauge a computer's ability to authenticate e-mail messages in real time. Adding the authentication to an e-mail server slowed processing down by 8 percent for outbound traffic and 15 percent for inbound traffic, according to the Sendmail's testing site.

"The current focus is to try these authentication systems with real mail on real systems to determine if the approaches proposed are robust enough to survive in the current infrastructure," the company stated in a white paper on the topic.

The new modules can be downloaded from the Sendmail testing site.

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