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Sprint offers service to halt spam

The telecom giant announces a new security service aimed at stopping computer viruses and unsolicited e-mail sent to its corporate customers.

Telecom giant Sprint announced Monday a new service aimed at stopping computer viruses and unsolicited e-mail sent to its corporate customers.

The e-mail protection service bolsters Sprint's other security offerings, such as managed firewalls and Web content filtering, and is available to customers for a fee based on the number of computers protected. Managed services such as e-mail protection have become a popular alternative to do-it-yourself security, said Mickey O'Dell, director of managed network services for Sprint.

"With the economy downturn, one thing that (these) services offer is a predictable cost to dealing with security," he said. Companies that manage their own security have to deal with a variety of unknowns, including hacker attacks and responding to those attacks, which can significantly increase costs.

Sprint's venture will put it in direct competition with several e-mail service providers, such as Brightmail, Postini and MessageLabs, which also offer companies protection from viruses and unsolicited e-mail.

Brightmail announced last month that it signed a deal with AT&T WorldNet to provide virus protection for WorldNet customers. Sprint may have contracted with one of the e-mail service providers to set up its own services, but wouldn't comment on the matter.

Sprint's e-mail protection service promises to block viruses based on scans by two antivirus engines, protect against files of certain types, filter out messages that contain objectionable content, and delete spam. Each part of the service is fully configurable.

Spam is increasingly clogging corporate networks and is expected to double the number of e-mail messages sent worldwide to 60 billion by 2006. By some estimates, spam could make up the majority of e-mail by the end of this year.

Companies that contract with Sprint for the e-mail protection service will have their messages routed to one of 10 hosting centers available nationwide where the various filters screen the content. The service initially won't be offered to home customers, O'Dell said.