ITC Rolls Out Better Spam Solution

November 13, 2006

Nov. 13, 2006 -- Information Technology and Communications will activate a new spam management system for all e-mail accounts on the University of Virginia's Central Mail Service on Tuesday, Nov. 14.

Due to the ever-increasing volume and sophistication of spam e-mail and the limited effectiveness of existing solutions, ITC has purchased a commercial anti-spam solution from IronPort Systems. Extensive testing has shown that IronPort greatly reduces spam compared to existing anti-spam tools, and it generates almost no false positives (legitimate messages that are misidentified as spam).

James Hilton, vice president and chief information officer, noted that “our goal is to provide an IT environment that enables electronic communication and access to resources.” He continued: “The intrusion of spam has been particularly disruptive to that goal. There is nothing enabling about spam; it’s a distraction. So I am quite pleased that we have been able to test, purchase and implement a set of tools that should dramatically increase the usefulness of e-mail and improve people’s online experience.”

Starting Tuesday morning, the new IronPort filtering will be activated for all CMS e-mail accounts, which should provide immediate, noticeable relief from unwanted e-mail. The change will happen entirely behind the scenes, and e-mail users do not need to do anything, unless they wish to opt out of the new filtering system. To do so, users must turn off the e-mail filtering option by using the U.Va. Webmail interface (see directions below).

After this initial deployment of IronPort protection for all email accounts on the CMS, the service will be made available during the spring semester to other U.Va. e-mail systems.

Modifying Spam Filtering Stringency

You can adjust how stringently the IronPort software filters your suspected spam e-mails. To understand how to adjust the spam filtering, it is helpful to understand how spam is identified by the anti-spam software.

The IronPort software identifies any “red flag” characteristics of an e-mail —characteristics indicative of spam. Some characteristics are bigger red flags than others. The filtering software gives each incoming e-mail a “spam score” based on the magnitude and quantity of red flag characteristics it has. The higher the score, the more likely the e-mail is to be spam. Your e-mail spam filter is set on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the most stringent setting, and 10 being the most permissive setting. The lower your spam filter setting, the lower the e-mail “spam score” must be in order to pass through the filter. The more stringent the filtering setting, the more suspected spam that will be stopped. However, a more stringent setting also increases the chance of false positives — legitimate messages that are misidentified as spam.

Whenever the IronPort filter stops an e-mail because its “spam score” is too high, the message is diverted to the “uva-potential-spam” folder. On Tuesday, even if you had never previously activated your CMS spam filter, it will automatically be turned on, set to a medium stringency (5) and a new “uva-potential-spam” folder will be created. ITC recommends that you periodically scan the contents of your “uva-potential-spam” folder for a while to check if any legitimate emails are being erroneously routed there.

To adjust IronPort filtering stringency setting

    1. Open your email account in U.Va. Webmail (
    2. Click the “Settings” tab
    3. Click “Spam” in the navigation bar on the left-hand side of the Settings page
    4. Under “Spam tolerance level,” select the button corresponding to the number, 1 through 10 (with 1 being the most stringent filter)

To turn off the IronPort spam filter

Follow steps 1 through 3, above.
    4. Under “Spam Filtering Settings,” select “Disabled” from the drop-down box beside “Spam filtering is currently:”

Managing When Potential Spam Is Deleted

You can also change how the Central Mail Services manages the messages that have been filtered to your “uva-potential-spam” folder. By default, messages in your spam folder are automatically discarded after they are 14 days old. If you would prefer to have more control over the contents of your spam folder, you can go to the “Filtered Mail Management” section of your Spam Filtering Settings in Webmail, and click the button that says “I will manage my uva-potential-spam mailbox myself.” It will then be up to you to sort through your spam folder and discard messages manually, on whatever schedule you choose.


If you have questions or concerns about IronPort, please contact the ITC Help Desk at (434) 924-3731 (on Grounds, 4-3731), or email