Companies Trying To Knock Out Spam

from the spam-spam-spam-spam dept

The problem of spam is clearly getting worse, not better, and for all the various suggestions for how to stop it, it doesn’t seem like much has been done that works. AOL is trying to make people think they care about stopping spam by getting people to sign an anti-spam petition. Yeah, that’s going to be useful. Who out there doesn’t already know that everyone hates spam? Meanwhile, the article reports that a different online petition is making the rounds to be sent to AOL to try to get them to cut down on the spam that AOL, itself, is responsible for in its own chat rooms. Meanwhile, this article claims that Yahoo is jumping on the wrong bandwagon and is offering a challenge-response spam prevention system. Of course, in reading the details, the reporter in this case screwed up. It’s not a “challenge-response” system at all. It’s just a system to make sure that the person who is using the Yahoo email account itself is a real person, by making them jump through the same “type the word in this image into the box” hoop. That’s not “challenge-response” – it’s just an extra hurdle – though, if I were a Yahoo email user this would probably annoy me. It sounds like they’re just randomly checking on people who already have accounts to prove they’re human. Of course, the fact that this isn’t actually a challenge-response system probably won’t stop Mailblocks from suing them for infringing on their patents. So, as these big companies take their useless steps towards stopping spam that are more focused on publicity than actually stopping spam, Meng Weng Wong at pobox is attempting to do something that might make a real dent in spam. The idea is to force all senders of email to send from their real domain. As is pointed out, this sounds interesting, but only works if people actually adopt it – so to encourage adoption, the system (called SPF – for Sender Permitted From) has a “sunrise date” of July 4, 2004. After that, the plan is that any email not from a SPF-compliant mail server automatically is considered spam. This seems a bit harsh, but it will be worth watching to see if it catches on. Update: Because the spam fighting keeps on coming, I’ll just add this one as an update. The FCC is now requesting fairly broad powers to go after spammers. They want access to FBI databases, the ability to serve “hidden” subpoenas on ISPs, and the freedom to share information with foreign governments in their quest to track down spammers. While it’s nice to see them so serious about going after spammers, it sounds like this plan goes a bit too far and doesn’t have nearly enough countermeasures to make sure the powers aren’t abused.

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