Gov’t has a ‘spam’ problem

Like almost every company in the business world, the Cayman Islands government is waging a battle against a seemingly relentless onslaught of spam emails.

A strategy employed last week in that battle apparently led to a number of legitimate emails sent to civil servants being blocked by spam filters.

‘To help catch more spam messages, additional spam filter criteria were added to the system on Tuesday, 12 August,’ read a statement issued by Government Information Services. ‘However, it did a little more than intended.’

Some of the blocked messages contained photos of Cayman Islands Olympic athletes sent from Beijing, an email seeking anyone who wanted to adopt a pair of dogs from a couple who were leaving the island, and other work-related messages from senders civil servants said they recognised.

‘This continued occurring even after several adjustments were made to the (spam) filter’s reject/delete settings,’ the government statement read. ‘It was therefore turned off on Thursday, 14 August.’

Computer Services Department officials said they remain committed to doing all they can to address problems with email spam.

Describing those problems as a daunting may be an understatement.

According to information provided by the government, its computer servers receive more than 760,000 email messages daily, roughly 23.6 million in a month.

Some 14-19 million of those, between 60 to 80 per cent, are classified as spam messages; meaning they contain foul language, product advertisements, pornography, and many other kinds of unsolicited emails.

The government’s computer services use several different types of spam message blockers that are modified on a regular basis in attempts to limit the number of unsolicited emails that get through the filters.

‘The volume of spam messages received by core government on a monthly basis is tremendous,’ the government statement read. ‘Without spam blockers they would eventually overwhelm and clog the system, preventing legitimate messages from passing between users.’

Even with spam filters in place, computer services have only been able to block about two-thirds of spam emails that come to government system users.

The emails received by civil servants last week included text that indicated the message content had been banned, notations made of what content rule had been violated and the ‘severity’ of the violation.

In some cases, users could still receive the email messages, in other cases they could not.