DNA Sequencing Technique Fights Spam Email

What's impressive is that an algorithm named Chung-Kwei (after a feng-shui talisman that protects the home against evil spirits) can catch nearly 97 per cent of spam. What's even more surprising is it wasn't developed for fighting unsolicited email -- it was created to analyze DNA and amino acid sequences for recurring patterns, which often indicate genetic structures that have an important role.

Chung-Kwei is based on the Teiresias algorithm, developed by the bioinformatics research group at IBM's Thomas J Watson Research Center in New York, US. Instead of chains of characters representing DNA sequences, the research group fed the algorithm 65,000 examples of known spam. Each email was treated as a long, DNA-like chain of characters. Teiresias identified six million recurring patterns in this collection, such as "Viagra".

IBM intends to include Chung-Kwei in its commercial product, SpamGuru. Justin Mason, who developed SpamAssassin, one of the most popular open-source anti-spam filters, says that Chung-Kwei looks promising.

"I think there is still a lot of work to be done. But what is exciting is not the particular algorithm, but the fact that IBM has shown there is the entire field of bioinformatics techniques to explore in the fight against spam."

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