Schools face waves of porn mail

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Two out of every five emails sent to schools contain pornography, according to an internet filtering company.

The finding comes as schools' internet servers face a growing wave of unsolicited "spam", viruses and adult pictures.

Email Systems analysed the email traffic at more than 2,000 secondaries and primaries last month and found that 80 per cent of the messages were blocked because they were unsolicited.

Just over half of these emails were pornographic. The figures suggest that schools could be a bigger target for junk messages than businesses, as "spam" accounts for only 67 per cent of the corporate email traffic vetted by the company.

Neil Hammerton, managing director of Email Systems, said junk messages and pornography were a growing problem for schools because people who generate "spam" could guess staff and pupil email addresses.

"The school addresses all end in 'sch.uk', so you can harvest the email address fairly easily by adding the name of the school, then a list of dictionary names," he said.

Mr Hammerton said that nearly all schools were taking precautions to prevent pupils from visiting unsuitable websites, but that many were still failing to filter emails.

"You would never allow pornographic magazines in a classroom, but many schools we speak to haven't got a system in place to filter emails," Mr Hammerton said.

Stuart Okin, chief security adviser for Microsoft UK, said he was not aware that schools were receiving any more "spam" than comparable-sized businesses.

But he said that unwanted emails were a greater problem for schools because they had a duty to protect their pupils from unsuitable material.

Mr Okin said schools had not caught up yet with businesses in the use of anti-spam technology.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said it was feared that some "spam" messages were attempts to gain personal details about children.

Chris Atkinson, NSPCC internet safety adviser, said: "We've seen children receive messages about sports competitions or a chance to meet a pop star.

They seem legitimate so children give out personal details which they would never put on a chat room."

Ms Atkinson said that filters were important but that it was impossible for schools to rely entirely on technology. She added that teachers should try to be vigilant and make sure that pupils know who to speak to if they receive unwanted messages.

www.EmailSystems.com

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