Judge, Jury, And Spam Executioner

Tech exec sets his sights on fighting e-mail menaces

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When Paul Q. Judge left Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1995, he was on his way to college to become a chemical engineer, or so he thought. As the chief technology officer of Atlanta-based CipherTrust Inc. recalls, the plan seemed logical because the major industries in his hometown at the time were “universities, government, and chemical plants.”

But three years at Morehouse College in Atlanta (where he earned a B.S. in computer science) and graduate work in network content distribution at Georgia Institute of Technology set Judge on a different course. What intrigued him about the Internet–a computer environment he overlooked in high school–was something he says most people spent too little time thinking about: e-mail security. For corporations and businesses that depend on e-commerce, the threats posed by unwanted e-mail present significant challenges, says Judge.

But it wasn’t until several conversations with the founders of CipherTrust, an e-mail security firm, that Judge, 26, realized the unique opportunity presented to him. In early 2000, he joined CipherTrust as a developer and shortly after was promoted to director of research and development. “[CipherTrust] was an ideal fit because our approach–before we even decided what we wanted to build–was to present an entire solution to the problem of spam,” says Judge.

For the following six months, Judge led a team of 10 developers and researchers through the process of understanding the problems generated by spam and also the technologies related to creating a solution. To fight spam, which Judge says can account for more than half of all incoming e-mails, some companies have to purchase additional hardware and software and factor in the loss of productivity. “Network security is quite a challenging situation,” he adds. “The problem is that people send spam to make a profit. People hire programmers to write spam. In our eyes, spam is unwanted e-mail; it’s a direct attack on a company’s resources. We had to escalate our efforts because a corporation can’t afford to label one legitimate e-mail as spam. It’s too costly to make a mistake.”

Almost two and a half years went by and Judge was working furiously to complete all his work. “I was getting by on four hours of sleep. I would work 10 to 12 hours a day and then work on my Ph.D. until 2 a.m.” Even the weekends were reserved for research. But by the fourth quarter of 2001, when CipherTrust introduced IronMail to the marketplace, Judge’s hard work and short nights began to pay off. IronMail has since been deployed in more than 1,000 e-mail networks worldwide, including more than 20% of Fortune 500 companies. “We’ve been able to interface with global companies…it’s exciting,” says Judge, who completed his Ph.D. in 2002, almost a year before he was promoted to his current position.

These days, with a schedule that includes speaking before Senate panels and on technology and securities conferences, Judge is a hard man to reach. In addition to his role at CipherTrust, he also founded and served as chartering chair of the

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