Computer Crime Research Center


Soaking in Spam

Date: May 19, 2004
Source: Newsweek
By: Brad Stone

... should stand idly by." Anti-spam activist Steve Linford of worries that the law lays too much responsibility on the doorstep of the strained FTC and that the volume of commercial e-mail will actually increase when big companies boot up their own ad messages after the government blesses commercial e-mail. "CAN-Spam basically says "You can spam?," Linford says.

New approaches: The best way to solve the intractable problem may be changing the very architecture of e-mail itself. Internet-standard-setting bodies are looking at ways of revising the code for delivering mail so ISPs can check whether incoming e-mail is faking its origin. But those changes would take years to trickle down into every network around the world. In the shorter term, "challenge/response" systems offer some relief; they let users send direct messages only to people who have the sender in their address books. When you e-mail a stranger, the system sends back a puzzle that only a human, not an automated spam program, can solve; give the correct response, and the e-mail goes through. Another system, dubbed micropayments, would charge a tiny amount for each e-mail sent and would add up to large sums only for bulk e-mailers. These solutions conflict with the original open and free-of-charge spirit of the Internet, but ultimately they're among the few reliable ways to foil out-of-control spammers and fraudsters. The bathwater might be gone, but in an age of ever-increasing junk-mail volumes, the greater challenge is to save the baby.
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