Feds aim to tackle overseas spammers

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, announced today that the Spam Act 2003 will be reviewed next year and hinted that the government's main focus will be to stop spam that originates from overseas. The Spam Act 2003 states that "unsolicited commercial electronic messages must not be sent" unless the recipient has "consented to receive it".

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, announced today that the Spam Act 2003 will be reviewed next year and hinted that the government's main focus will be to stop spam that originates from overseas.

The Spam Act 2003 states that "unsolicited commercial electronic messages must not be sent" unless the recipient has "consented to receive it". The Act covers unsolicited e-mails, instant messages, SMS (text messages) and MMS (picture messages). Anyone found in breach of the Act could face a fine up to AU$1.1 million.

Senator Coonan claims the 2003 Act has helped reduce the amount of spam originating from Australia but admitted that the problem really lies in messages being sent from outside Australia.

"Since the Act came into effect, many professional spammers that had been based in Australia have either shut up shop or left the country… A great deal of spam continues to be received from overseas sources," said Senator Coonan in a statement. "It is an international problem requiring an approach that focuses on both domestic and international initiatives."

A spokesperson for the Senator told ZDNet Australia that the review is unlikely to focus on spam originating in Australia: "I don't imagine spam from Australian sources will be the focus of discontent from industry or consumers. There is still a problem with spam emanating from overseas."

But Sydney-based security analyst Michael Warrilow believes that legislation is unlikely to reduce the amount of spam because spammers are notoriously difficult to trace.

"Spam levels in Australia are lower than the US but you will not stop spam just by having a Spam Act. But it is good to have something to beat spammers over the head with -- if you can find them," said Warrilow.

Warrilow also argues that technical solutions will be difficult to come by because they are likely to make sending and receiving e-mails a more complex process, which will affect their popularity.

"E-mail is just too convenient -- anything that is going to make it more secure is going to make it less convenient," he said.

The DCITA is asking for suggestions on ho the act could be improved from both businesses and consumers by 1 February 2006. More information is available on the DCITA Web site.

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