Postini: Fighting the war against spam

postini logoGoogle acquired Postini for $625 million earlier this week. Postini’s product is a hosted corporate communications solution. It provides central control over all of a company’s exchanges - email, instant message and web based communications. Postini provides communication security solutions to more than 35000 businesses and 10 million users.

Google was already using Postini’s spam filters in its Gmail. Now it has decided to bring the expertise in-house. This is not unusual really. Google has done it before. A while ago, Google bought Urchin. The web analytics product formed the engine of what is Google Analytics, today.

Google has been shoring up its fortress in the web world. In May, Google announced the acquisition of Green Border Technologies, a maker of anti-virus and anti-spyware technology. And now, with its acquisition of Postini, Google wants to add a layer of security on top of its Google Apps business, where lack of security is cited as one of the main reasons for concern in using on-demand software.

Postini is backed by August Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Mobius Venture Capital, Pacifica Fund, Summit Partners and Sun Microsystems.

While on the war against spam, what is really needed is a universal server authentication system for all email. Today, spammers are able to send junk email without impunity. While this is a minor (or major) annoyance for users, for web operators, it can be catastrophic. Spammers can send out junk mail from domain addresses that they do not even own (it is very easy to fake domain address). “Denial of Service” attacks can result, bringing down the website whose address was falsely used.

The technology to ping back the server that sent an email, and to verify that it is the same as the purported sender, exists today. Services such as Goggle Gmail and Yahoo mail do use it. However, globally, emails sent to and via other servers has no such protection.

As far as Google’s plans go, the security related acquisitions appear to be more in line with a strategy of building up support products for its main suite of applications. It does not appear that Google has plans of directly entering the security software market. At least not right now.

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