If A Spam Arrives In The Forest, But Nobody's Around To Receive It…

from the no,-it's-not-getting-better dept

An anti-spam coalition says that 80 percent of all email sent in the first quarter of the year was spam — but with email providers and ISPs saying they stop most of it before end users ever see it, does that mean spam is under control? Hardly. While spam filters might be improving (forgive us for being more skeptical than the companies cited in the article on this point), spam’s getting more vicious in some ways — for instance, the number of viruses sent as a fraction of all email has dropped, but the number of phishing emails has shot through the roof. Still, ISPs say user complaints are down, so the spam problem must be abating. But this ignores a large chunk of the impact of spam — it’s not just an annoyance to end users, but fighting it also chews up a tremendous amount of resources from the likes of ISPs and enterprises. Filtering single messages is an incredibly inefficient way of dealing with the problem (that is, assuming it even works properly), but decent solutions are slow to emerge, and are typically circumvented pretty quickly by spammers. Legislation like CAN-SPAM still doesn’t work, and politicians’ interest has moved on to newer hot-button issues like identity theft. Of course, never mind that phishing spam helps make identity theft happen, when you can focus on meaningless fines and pointeless judgments, then act like you’ve done something to stop spam.


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Comments on “If A Spam Arrives In The Forest, But Nobody's Around To Receive It…”

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22 Comments
Stupid is as... says:

Spam mail / email

the best way and probably the only way to stop spam is education and to make spamming cost more than it makes. Ed-ja-ma-kate people on why spam is bad and why they should stop suipporting it by falling into it’s traps. The only reason these spammers are even around is because there are stupid people out there that fall victim to them and make it “profitable” to continue spamming. Find the companies / people who are spamming and fine them 40 cents per spam mail. *shrugs*

techguy says:

Charge per email

I don’t like the idea of charging for email in terms of dollars. The best idea I’ve heard (admitedly not my own idea), is to charge time per email. That is, create an encryption protocol that costs 1 second of processing time. If you’re a legitimate user, you’ll never notice that it took an extra second for your email to send, but if you’re a spammer, all of a sudden you’re limited to 3600 emails per hour, per machine.

Anonymous Coward says:

You are referring, of course, to American politicians, and while I agree with you in principal that spamming should be punishable — this is the same American politicians who just OVERTURNED legislation forbidding fax-spam. Apparently our representative republic wants to have us believe that there are calls from the voting public that we WANT spam!

Make THAT miserable and completely disgusting decision punishable, too! Bad politicians! Bad bad bad!

SPR (profile) says:

SPAM in the forest

If SPAM arrives in the forest but there is no one around to receive it, it is still a pain in the ass. I delete them unread, and when I am able to tell what company it came from I avoid doing business from that company. HMM, there’s a thought for reverse SPAM, send something out that is OBVIOUSLY SPAM, and put your competitors name in the subject line!!

Nobody says:

CAN-SPAM was a joke on the electorate

Carlo wrote:

Legislation like CAN-SPAM still doesn’t work, and politicians’ interest has moved on to newer hot-button issues like identity theft.

CAN-SPAM was never intended to stop spam, slow down spam, prosecute spammers, or even prosecute spammers engaging in fraud. CAN-SPAM preempted much better state laws that enabled recipients to haul spammers into court and had meaninful criminal sanctions too.

CAN-SPAM was passed for two main reasons:

1. The Direct Marketing Association (or whatever their name is) paid several tons of bribes, er, campaign contributions, to congresscritters; and

2. Every congresscritter knows by heart the political truth that nobody ever lost an electtion by lying to voters, or by overestimating voters’ intelligence. So they just told the big liie, “we’re stopping spam for you”.

The key to stopping spam is a few financially ruined, imprisoned spammers to serve as examples. But don’t hold your breath.

A simple amendment to CAN-SPAM would help immensely. Just add a section “Nothing in any federal statute affected or enacted by this act shall preempt any state’s law on the subject.”

Then, anyone in, say, California, could sue any spammer for statutory set damages that are very generous to the spam recipient. Jurisdiction would be in the state of California, even if the spammer is in Timbuktu. As soon as enough judgments against spammers exist in enough states with good anti-spam laws, no domestic based spammers could easily escape paying. An “Army of Davids” approach would work very effectively.

One political solution, unlikely but not theoretically impossible to do, is to come up with more “campaign contributions” than the DMA can.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: CAN-SPAM was a joke on the electorate

A simple amendment to CAN-SPAM would help immensely. Just add a section “Nothing in any federal statute affected or enacted by this act shall preempt any state’s law on the subject.”

Do you not know what a federal law is? They are always meant to preempt any state law. I like the idea about charging for prcoessor speed. Or better yet, if you are sending more than 300 e-mails per day the ISP will cap your bandwidth to something ridiculously slow (like 1 kbps. for example). The ISP needs to make it a real pain to send spam, I do not think there is much the government can do.

Lay Person says:

Hmmm

Hmmm…Let’s see, the post office has been around for some time and so has the mail (regular old fashioned mail).

We still have the problem of garbage mail in our real mailboxes. It is so prolific and continuous we don’t even notice it. In fact I get so much crap I, at times, throw out my legitimate mail inadvertantly!

Why has it never been stopped?

So too will the spam not be stopped. The powers that be have an agenda, although I know not what it is.

Charles Griswold says:

Re: Hmmm

Hmmm…Let’s see, the post office has been around for some time and so has the mail (regular old fashioned mail).

We still have the problem of garbage mail in our real mailboxes. It is so prolific and continuous we don’t even notice it. In fact I get so much crap I, at times, throw out my legitimate mail inadvertantly!

Why has it never been stopped?

There are huge differences between spam and junk snail mail. Spam doesn’t cost the spammers several cents per message to send. Each peice of junk snail mail sent costs the sender money. So, while you may get several pieces of junk mail per day, you don’t get hundreds of pieces a day. Some people do get so much spam that it takes them a couple of hours a day to deal with it.

Another difference is that junk snail mailers can’t hijack your mail box and send junk mail from your address.

IMHO, they should send Bun-bun after the spammers.

Michael Ward (profile) says:

Stopping SPAM (yes, really)

Some SPAM is illegal, even under the Can-Spam Act. My mailbox get lots of it.

I can’t go after the spammers, but my ISP could go after the problem by suing the people who hired the spammers — the Gevalia Coffee companies and the mortgage brokers and the fake-drug makers.

The spammers are acting as agents for the companies that benefit from spam, and there’s a long history in the legal code about “agency” and the responsibilities a company has for the actions of its agents.

Why doesn’t agency law apply here?

Ryan says:

Spam clogs the tubes..

no legislation can prevent spam as long as it’s profitable.

I agree we need to teach people that while the “re-mortgage your house online while playing poker and popping viagra” emails are tempting, don’t buy anything from them.

Fact is, people still buy.

The other fact is, there’s no defintion of spam.. people go by “anything I didn’t find useful” as spam nowadays. Much of it is stuff they consented to.

Also, I don’t think they can use number of complaints as a metric. What about tolerance? After a while people just stop bitching and learn to live with it.

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