Splintering on spam

commentary Information and communications technology (ICT) companies and governments are planning to drive their anti-spam efforts to new heights later this year.Australia is among the jurisdictions pushing for a global anti-spam program based on legislation and cooperative enforcement between regulators.

commentary Information and communications technology (ICT) companies and governments are planning to drive their anti-spam efforts to new heights later this year.

Australia is among the jurisdictions pushing for a global anti-spam program based on legislation and cooperative enforcement between regulators.

However, rather than eliminate spam on its own, a legislative and regulatory response can only be a partial solution. Despite the existence of the Spam Act 2003, Australia still sat within the "dirty dozen" top spamming nations (at number 11 with 1.22 percent) as at April.

ICT companies and Internet service providers (ISPs) worldwide also bear a huge responsibility for stamping out a problem some say threatens the very viability of e-mail.

However, can the ICT industry be trusted to tackle the problem in an effective, collaborative fashion without sectoral interests pushing their own barrows?

Enter Microsoft.

The software heavyweight this week said from about November, Hotmail and MSN would flag as potential spam those messages that do not have a Sender ID tag.

According to this article on ZDNet Australia, the move is meant to spur takeup of Sender ID, a specification for verifying the authenticity of e-mail by ensuring the validity of the server from which the mail came.

The technology -- partially developed by Redmond -- obliges ISPs, companies and other domain holders to publish so-called Sender Policy Framework (SPF) records to identify their mail servers.

However, the move has generated howls of dissent from analysts, experts and anti-virus companies. They variously pointed out that Sender ID is not an accepted or complete standard and has a raft of shortcomings. Average users may have their legitimate e-mail tagged as spam when sent to Hotmail accounts while forwarded e-mails are also at risk. Trend Micro's chief technologist for Internet content security, Dave Rand, argues Microsoft is "trying to strong-arm the industry" into accepting Sender ID.

The volume and vehemence of criticism on its own suggests the industry is deeply divided on Microsoft's move. The brawl is certainly a pretty sour counterpoint to the efforts of governments and regulators to tackle what is still a very serious problem.

One thing is for sure: Bill Gates' January 2004 promise to get rid of spam by 2006 is looking on the rash side of bold.

What do you think? Is the anti-spam push set to founder in a morass of conflicting standards? E-mail us at edit@zdnet.com.au and let us know.

Iain Ferguson is News Editor of ZDNet Australia.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All