Early Adopter: Bechtel Corp.

Company: Bechtel Corp.
Problem: Spam, and lots of it. By late 2002, some of Bechtel’s employees received up to 600 junk e-mails daily, costing the firm, by its own estimate, over 3,000 man-hours a month.
Solution: Take the burden of “sort and delete” off employees and implement a company-wide spam extermination.

San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. helped build the Hoover Dam and dig the “Chunnel” between England and France. In January, the $16.3 billion firm won a $1.8 billion contract to help rebuild Iraq. Until recently, however, it hadn’t found a way to dam the flood of spam sapping its staff’s productivity.

Fortunately for its 20,000 e-mail users, that began to change in March 2003. After testing three antispam products, Bechtel decided to go with Brightmail Inc., a six-year-old, $26 million software start-up acquired by Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec Corp. in June. Bechtel’s manager of infrastructure engineering, Chris Zeck, says he chose Brightmail because of its low cost of ownership (less than a penny per user a day) and accuracy in avoiding false positives. That accuracy stems from the constant updates from Brightmail’s “Probe Network,” which receives nothing but spam. To date, it has captured more than two million decoy e-mail addresses in what it calls spam traps and honeypots; once the sender and domains from these messages are recorded, this data is used to create filters for all Brightmail clients.

Zeck won’t say what he paid for Brightmail, but he’s thrilled with how fast it made an impact. Once the servers running Brightmail were in place, Bechtel’s staff was alerted that during the testing phase, suspected spam would be flagged—but not deleted in order to assure that valuable information would not be lost. Filter rules were then fine-tuned with the help of user feedback. After only one week, the response was so positive that Zeck began to quarantine spam at the gateway. One year later, he estimates that while spam has increased to 82 percent of all inbound e-mail traffic, more than 92 percent of that never reaches a Bechtel employee’s desktop.

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