Saturday, June 26, 2004

SPAM: Can Competitors Work Together Against Spam?

Can Competitors Work Together Against Spam? - Jun 24, 2004 - CIO Opinion - CIO

Ever since the Federal Trade Commission made clear its conviction that the best answer to spam is one that would come not from the government, but from technology vendors, critics of that school of thought have wondered what that solution might be. Now we know.

This week, four large ISPs—America Online, Yahoo, Microsoft and Earthlink—said they would put aside their long tradition of fighting tooth and nail and support one another’s different versions of anti-spam technology. That technology, in all cases, is sender authentication technology, designed to make sure that e-mail messages really do come from the person whose name is on them. Because most spam, and most phishing, uses a phony return address, a system that could spot and delete mail from bogus addresses could eliminate a great deal of spam.

Sender authentication technology is a great idea, and while few technologists question its promise, some people doubt the promises of long-time competitors who claim that they are hooking up. According to a recent report in The New York Times, Yahoo, whose approach to sender ID is called Domain Keys, agreed to give “limited support” to the different “Sender Policy Framework” approach taken by America Online and Earthlink. And, by the way, Microsoft agreed to support that SPF approach only last month, and has yet to declare its support of Domain Keys. Does that sound like the kind of commitment required for blissful cohabitation?

In this case, as in many cases of what technology vendors call “innovation,” the technology may be the easy part. Collaboration could be the application killer.

Can four enemies find a way to work happily together? Will technology sender ID technology be the spam slayer that we have all been waiting for?

Tell us what you think will work, and enjoy this online discussion, because Sound Off is going away for an extended vacation. Have a great summer.

Sound Off is a weekly column about current IT-related issues. Web Editorial Director Art Jahnke (ajahnke@cio.com) always welcomes feedback.

Most recent responses ...

Spam has been a long debate since email has become mainstream. I was shocked to hear that the United States was moving in the direction of legalizing spam when the rest of the world was considering it illegal. My viewpoint on SPAM is that it is unwanted email (just like you wouldn't want to get junk mail in your mail postal box, you don't want junk email in your inbox). The difference between spam and your postal mail is that your postal mail costs $$$ and become cost prohibitive to the sender.

I am surprised that email servers today do not utilize a simple verification system or even sender ID. Simple solutions like this would resolve many issues of unwanted email and will force senders to send email from a valid email system. I don't believe they will cure all the problems though because spammers will just obtain multiple sender ID's.

The largest problem is free email services like Yahoo. It's a great place for spammers to "blast-out" their email. Email used to be the responsibility of the corporation that people worked in...if you had offensive email, that person could lose their jobs...but with Yahoo...there is no consequence associated to an offensive email. This type of attitude should be changed (same goes for all those ISP's who allow hacking, port scanning and everything else).


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