My take on SPAM and the law and what technology solving it.

Reference to Computer Time Wednesday 30 June 2004 Technology still the best
weapon by Chua Hian Hou, I totally agree with the title of the article but
totally disagree with Mr Seah Seng Choon (Executive Director, Consumer
Asociation of Singapore) and Ms Lisa Watson whose the Chairman of the Direct
Marketing Association of Singapore. I wonder why so when she agreed that
“Miscreants can overcome technology” as said by Mr Seah. She being a Senior
Director at Oracle should have allowed her to know what technology are out there
at the very least. But hey, we ain’t there when she agree so we can’t really
point that out without a doubt. My point is, if technology ain’t the answer to
SPAM, then what is?

The Law

The law can never be the answer, at least not to SPAM (and to a lot of things
since the law says you can’t do this and that but don’t we still have people
doing whatever they’re doing and getting jail time for that?). SPAM started out
as with the very basic and the first and only true “killer application” a
technologist’s dream come true. Everyone uses it, it as common as having a cell
phone in Singapore and it’s as common as having a residential address so to
speak. It’s always something good out there when someone had a brilliant idea to
use it for marketing, then someone coined the term “direct marketing” but it’s
all a waste of my time to me, having to run through email I will never be
interested in, from growing your penis to making breasts even bigger devices,
from the ever popular “wanna buy some Viagra” to god knows what services.

Your Law Ain’t MY LAW!

The Law will and does not cross boundaries (countries), that alone will put
anyone off. But how do they really and truly classified if a mail is sent from
any countries, someone will be coming out a guideline in time to come but with
dedicated servers services in most countries, it ain’t that hard to put up a (if
not, SOME! or A LOT of!) “dedicated e-mail spamming server” in some country and
by passing the law in some ways.

Whatever law applies here in Singapore, may not apply in Australia for example,
who newly pass their CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited
Pornography and Marketing or whatever country passing their new anti-spamming
law(s), it may not work.

Back to the article again, Principal Senior State Counsel Charles Lim from the
Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers illustrated that like SARS (severe acute
respiratory syndrome, “Doctors help to cure Sars while law ensures that sick
people are identified and quarantined. Some truth to it I guess. It’s (The Law)
is part of the BIG solution but it ain’t gonna help much.

Education

Educating the general public will in part be part of the BIG solution too but it
is not going to help much. A SPAM company under the name of “I am a direct
marketing company” just want to push out their e-mail to people whom they think
will be interested in their or their client’s products. Yes, in case you haven’t
realise, people pay others to SPAM in the first place. So how do you stop the
forces of money.

Technology to fight technology

Truth be told, anti spam software nowadays are a waste of money, it’s not 100%
safe or fool proof but bare in mind, NOTHING is! What in information technology
is? But we try to minimise it all we can by putting in policies, coding, log
files, softwares to help us safe guard, prevent and minimise dangers of any
kinds.

Technology crosses all borders. Where SPAM can reach currently and in future
(think not even on planet Earth), technology that is going to prevent and
minimise SPAM can and will get there (first perhaps!).

Promising Technologies:

1. Bill Gate’s Filtering, Computing Challenges and Payment.

Everyone knows and as above, filtering doesn’t work well so let’s leave this
out, second, computing challenges. Every computer that’s going to send an e-mail
to solve a small cryptographic puzzle posed to it by the recipient’s computer,
it’ll take 10 secs to solve this puzzle. Average users will not notice it at all
but to a SPAMMER, a days has 86,400 seconds thus each day, at most a spammer can
send out 8,640 e-mails.

Charging money for sending out mail may, as David Moss (See sources at end of
article) has point out, need a whole new technology. Reinventing the wheel
perhaps.

2. Microsoft’s Penny Black project

Let’s not cover the original penny black idea back in the 1940s, Google for it
is you wanna know more but it’s basically also the payment mechanism.

Penny Black – The ticket server

This looks really promising, I personally like the idea and think it might just
work. Idea was formed by Microsoft’s Cynthia Dwork and Mark Manasse with
Microsoft Research Team, University of California, Google and MIT’s Laboratory
or Computer Science. An impressive team huh?!

Tickets will be purchase in advance from a server, when a mail sender sends,
ticket attached, if the recipient is happy with the received mail, he just needs
to do some form of acknowledgement and the ticket is automatically refund to the
sender. If a spammer sends, imagine the amount of money needed if he intends to
have a lot of people getting his mails.

Figures

From Penny Black Project (see links)

In 2003, AOL detected 780 million per day while they have 27 million users.
4 August 2003, Hotmail 158 million users has 2.6 billion (with 39 million mails
within Hotmail), 2.1 billion are classified as SPAM. That’s 24,000 a sec.

Scary now? It’s a totally waste of resources, and now you know why cost of
having Internet access doesn’t get any cheaper, it’s all a chain reaction. More
bandwidth, more oversea bandwidth, more equipments needed, more cost here, more
cost there, no where to generate the income, pass it on! Right down to you and
me.

Sources:
PC Authority (Australia) June 2004 Issue 79 REAL WORLD COMPUTING | BACK OFFICE
Credit: David Moss
Computer Time Wednesday 30 June 2004 Technology still the best weapon by Chua
Hian Hou

Links:
Penny Black Project

http://research.microsoft.com/research/sv/pennyblack/
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http://www.itcow.com/staticpages/in…030129120121614

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itcow gallery corrupted…

Oh Darn, itcow’s gallery is corrupted, some images got mixed up and worse of all, got merged with something else…I’ll be doing a full editing and also taking the chance to clean up the gallery.