Latest spam filter test shows spam catch rates have bounced back

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Nov 21, 2012

Spam catch rates improve, but performance on phishing lags behind that on other spam.

Earlier this week we published the results of the 22nd VBSpam comparative spam filter test, which saw 19 products win a VBSpam award.

Overall, products performed well and most products' spam catch rates improved, thus reversing a trend we reported earlier this year. The highest catch rates were achieved by OnlyMyEmail, which missed only one email in the spam feed, and Libra Esva. Both products also missed only one legitimate email out of the 12,000 sent during the 16-day test period.

Four anti-spam solutions - SpamTitan, ESET, Netmail and Halon Security - managed to avoid false positives altogether, while also catching more than 99.5 per cent of all spam. They each earned a VBSpam+ award.

For the first time, the test also included a dedicated feed of phishing emails, courtesy of Wombat Security. In general, a lot of effort goes into making phishing emails appear legitimate, and the relatively low volume of phishing campaigns compared with traditional spam campaigns also makes it harder to catch the emails.

Our test results confirmed that these emails are harder for products to filter correctly: with two exceptions (SPAMfighter and OnlyMyEmail, which both caught all the phishing emails), the products' performance on the phishing feed was worse than on other spam emails: most products caught less than 90 per cent of them, with several products putting in a significantly worse performance than this.

This is not good news. It indicates that many home and corporate users are exposed to phishing emails - some of which are very difficult to distinguish from legitimate emails. Making the mistake of believing such emails are legitimate could result in financial loss and/or identity theft - if not directly, then via the malware served by the links present in many of today's phishing emails. We hope to see some improvement in products' ability to identify phishing emails in the not-too-distant future.

The basic pass/fail results of the VBSpam test can be viewed free of charge here.

For Virus Bulletin subscribers, the full test report is available here. Non-subscribers can purchase the report as a standalone article ($19.95) here.

More on the VBSpam tests, including historical performance of the participating products, can be found here.

Posted on 21 November 2012 by Martijn Grooten

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