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McAfee aims spam tools at small business

McAfee Security's new spam-fighting software is designed to help small and midsize businesses ward off annoying spam, the first product resulting from its acquisition of DeerSoft.

McAfee Security on Monday unveiled new spam-fighting software aimed at small and midsize businesses, the first product resulting from its acquisition of DeerSoft in January.

The new McAfee SpamKiller for Microsoft Exchange Small Business is designed to ward off annoying spam through a combination of white lists, blacklists, content filtering and heuristics, which calculates the probability that a particular e-mail message is spam by examining a pattern of characteristics in the message.

The product, which scans e-mails as they come into the company's network, also contains a self-tuning feature, meaning that it can do things like recognize familiar people with whom an e-mailer frequently corresponds and let their messages though even if the e-mails contain characteristics that would otherwise flag them as spam.

The move is just the latest among antivirus companies jumping into the spam-fighting market. Last month, Trend Micro unveiled new antispam services and software designed to complement its security software.

"We see really that spam is a big growth area," said Zoe Lowther, group marketing manager for McAfee Security. "We find that our customers have been asking for this."

As much as 50 percent of all messages in the average corporate in-box is unwanted e-mail according to a Gartner Group study from December of last year.

Aberdeen Group analyst Eric Hemmendinger said the push into antispam products is a natural progression for antivirus companies as they broaden their approach from fighting viruses to protecting against all content that could be harmful or irrelevant to a corporate network.

Hemmendinger said companies that aren't terribly concerned with spam right now could be by the end of the year because of worries about legal liability, security issues and the space that unwanted e-mails take up on servers.

When it comes to fighting spam, he said, "most companies will come back and see what their current suppliers have to offer."

McAfee said it plans to introduce three other antispam products by the end of the year, including SpamKiller for WebShield appliances, SpamKiller for Lotus Domino and SpamKiller for Exchange, which will target large businesses.

Network Associates, which owns McAfee, has been on a buying spree of sorts in recent months. Two weeks ago, the company announced plans to buy intrusion detection firms Entercept Security Technologies and IntruVert Networks. And in January, Network Associates acquired DeerSoft, maker of the SpamAssassin software that appears in McAfee's new SpamKiller product line.