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Porn checker sniffs it out

Email scanner reaches parts others can't

Email security company MessageLabs today announced the launch of its porn filtering service, claiming 95 percent accuracy using the software.

The system scans email image attachments using ICA (image composition analysis) to detect flesh tones and decide whether an image is pornographic or acceptable.

The MessageLabs software uses AI (artificial intelligence) to distinguish itself from other porn scanners, which often reject harmless holiday snaps.

Chief technical officer Mark Sunner explained, "By drawing on a huge database of information, the software is able to put images into context."

"It can differentiate, for example, between a close-up shot of a face and a naked body, as well as tell light-coloured background textures, such as wallpaper, from flesh tones."

ICA is also able to tell whether or not the subject matter is innocent. "The software has a complete knowledge of anatomy and suggestive poses," said Sunner.

MessageLabs estimates that a quarter of all email image attachments contain pornographic material. It's a problem which dents productivity and presents employers with a host of legal issues, according to marketing director Jos White.

"With email now the de facto standard of communication for businesses, pornographic email attachments are an increasing problem," said White, who cited several recent high-profile cases which have led to sackings at Dell, Royal Sun Alliance and Merrill Lynch.

The porn scanner will be available from 1 September at a cost of 50p per user per month, but existing SkyScan AV customers can sign up now.


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