Spamhaus rebuts vendor accusations

The anti-spam campaigning group says some software makers need to do their homework

Anti-spam campaigning group Spamhaus has hit back at criticisms from ISPs that it is 'hyping' the spam problem unnecessarily.

Last week anti-spam software vendors Vircom and Postini attacked claims by Spamhaus' director Steve Linford that a virus is threatening the email infrastructure of numerous ISPs around the world.

The vendors disagreed with Linford's claims that email systems were on the verge of collapse due to the worm creating so-called zombie computers, that are then being used to spread spam via ISP's mail servers.

"I find this to be not very accurate. Although the zombie drone problem is very serious, there are solutions out there for ISPs that will minimize the effects of zombie PCs sending out tons of spam," said François Bourdeau, director of marketing for Vircom.

In his original warning, Linford said spam coming from legitimate ISPs rather than directly from the illegal servers of spammers themselves has additional complications. Trying to block spam being spread by these ISPs, by adding the addresses to a blacklist, could result in a huge proportion of legitimate mail being blocked, he said,

Linford claimed that some anti-spam vendors needed to do more research. "They need to do some better analysing as they do not understand that ISPs are already affected by it," he said. "Naturally 'analysts', such as Postini or Vircom, with products to sell will push their products as solutions, but [they] have little or no understanding of the underground spam industry. They're just commercial filter firms, and obviously do not know that AOL and other major players are stating to the press they have 95 percent of incoming spam from this very same 'trick' we are, apparently according to your press, 'hyping'."

ISP Earthlink said it has noticed a gradual increase in spam volume coming from its legitimate mail servers since the beginning of 2004. The company claims it has implemented safeguards, such as authenticated SMTP servers and re-routing of legitimate e-mail, to cut down the flow.

According to the Washington Post, AOL started to see receive spam from other Internet service provider mail more than a year ago. AOL, which has 29 million customers, reported that 95 percent of all spam comes from ISP servers.

Linford reiterated that he meant ISPs needed to act fast to prevent email infrastructures crumbling under the weight of spam. "I certainly don't mean the Net will come crashing down next year," said Linford. "They [vendors] are quite right in saying it's not about to collapse. I mean problems in the form of overburdened mail server queues and non-delivery of mail. [Mail servers] will start to be visibly deteriorating by mid-2006."

Postini and Vircom were unavailable for comment.

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