14 May WTN Interview: Alex Bratton: EmailRX's founder on viruses and spam
Alex Bratton is determined to give heavy email users something they lack: time and security. The 32 year old founder of EmailRx, and a heavy email user, talks about the inspiration for his company, the challenge with “grow this, shrink that” offers and the wireless world.
WTN: How much email do you get everyday?
Bratton:. I typically receive around 1,000 messages a day from various email accounts with about 70% of that being unsolicited email (spam). I would waste a lot of time every day without a solution to help manage all the garbage mixed in with valuable communications.
WTN: Which is worse, viruses or spam?
Bratton: Viruses can cause concentrated down time that affects multiple people in an organization and may incur real costs to clean up the mess. They are also a real threat to the security of your business. Spam is a constant time waster that happens every time you open your email program. Rephrasing your question, that¹s like asking ³What¹s worse, breaking a leg or having a cold for a year². Most of us would rather avoid both.
WTN: So how do you know if something is spam?
Bratton: Realistically, there are hundreds of characteristics that can be used to identify spam: everything from the typical “grow this, shrink that” to forged email headers or known open email relays. Just knowing these rules isn’t enough. Spammers are constantly in an escalating technology war with those trying to eliminate spam. That means, the methods they use are constantly evolving and improving. A second way to look at spam messages is to use statistical algorithms (such as Bayesian logic) to determine the probability of a message being spam by looking at the content of the email.
WTN: So why the mission to stop spam?
Bratton: We got our start helping companies protect themselves from email borne viruses. Last year, the spam epidemic really took off and our customers needed help (as did I). Being a technologist, I thought there was a better way to do things. For instance, much of the client side virus protection software brought baggage with it — such as requiring user intervention and updates. As a result, viruses were more damaging than they should have been. The same thing is happening in the spam world with programs requiring users to constantly train and update them.
Our approach to software usability has always been to make the problem go away by just turning something on. Having to spend additional time installing, configuring and tweaking settings isn’t what people want to be spending their valuable time on. Our solutions don’t require customer maintenance.
WTN: So what is EmailRX?
Bratton:. EmailRx (www.emailrx.net) is a service that takes care of the virus and spam problem without having to install or manage software. For larger enterprise customers we also offer an appliance that runs inside the company network.
WTN: How does it work?
Bratton: Email headed to your company passes through the EmailRx series of 5 scanners (3 virus and 2 spam). Multiple scanners are critical as single scanner solutions are not as accurate. The virus scanners look for both known viruses as well as malicious code in the email message itself that can do things like auto-launch attachments. Viruses are stopped before they reach your network and notifications are sent to the sender and intended recipient so that they know an infected messages was killed.
WTN: You’re really a geek. Tell us about some of your other passions.
Bratton: I’m also passionate about the emerging wireless world. Wireless technologies are going to have an even greater impact than the internet. It won¹t be long before we can do everything that we¹re chained to a desk for today via a wireless device. That kind of geographic freedom is going to cause a big shift in our culture. In addition to my role with EmailRx, I recently founded WirelessInsights.org (www.wirelessinsights.org) as a community site dedicated to critical thinking about wireless technologies. I am also working on a number of wireless software projects.
Ben Bradley is the founder of GrowingCo.com and Benbradley.net. If you have questions or comments, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Bratton is a proven Internet technologist and entrepreneur with over 12 years of Internet development experience. He has extensive expertise in eBusiness strategy, Internet community development, project management and system design which he applied for a variety of Fortune 500 companies including Levi Strauss, Lucent Technologies, Zurich Kemper Life, Morningstar, Nalco Chemicals, R.R. Donnelly, Motorola and Follett as well as Internet start-ups. Alex can be reached at email@example.com