Spam Control–Realistic Performance Today

Many spam control vendors glibly say they get a one in 1 million false positive rate. That is, out of every one million emails they scan, they only identify one bona fide email as spam and then delete or quarantine it.

It may be true that a given vendor can achieve a one in 1 million false positive rate, but if so, it does so at the expense of letting more spam through. The higher the proportion of spam that you catch, the higher the false positive rate.

The reality today is that in the real world, trading off spam catch rate against false positive rates, almost all products end up delivering the following performance:

  • 0.02% false positive rate. That is, 1 false positive in every 5,000 emails scanned
  • 95% catch rate. That is, 95% of spam is detected and filtered

As far as we can see, right there isn't a lot of difference between the main vendors in this regard.

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