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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Nick Feamster, 31

Watching the suspicious behavior of spam

Georgia Tech

For years, e-mail providers, IT departments, and network operators have fought spam with the help of technology that examines what messages say. Nick ­Feamster, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech, had a better idea. Instead of examining content, he looks at how messages move through networks, on the theory that the traffic flow of legitimate messages and spam should be different.

For example, Feamster found that spammers often try to hide in "dark space"--normally unconnected Internet addresses. Suddenly, a previously unreachable block of addresses would light up, send out a bunch of messages, and then disappear. Watching for phantom networks that appear for 10 minutes at a time turned out to be one way to identify and stop spam. His strategies have been adopted by companies such as Yahoo and McAfee in their ongoing struggle to prevent spam from reaching users. --Erica Naone

Global gunk: Nick Feamster's research team tracks the regions of the world most afflicted by spam.
Credit: Feamster

2010 TR35 Winners

Danah Boyd (video)

Shaping the rules for social networks

Wesley Chan

Building new technology businesses

Nick Feamster

Watching the suspicious behavior of spam

David Karp

A platform that keeps ­bloggers blogging

David Kobia (video)

Software that helps populations cope with crises

Christopher Kruegel

Developing software that shuts down botnets

Kati London (video)

Teaching real-world skills through games

Avi Muchnick (video)

Cloud-based multimedia editing software


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