FTC hosted copy of the Trusted Email Open Standard.
Microsoft tests Trusted Sender, January, 2002.
10 things companies should do about spam
More about the power of squelching spam with TurnTide
Stephen Cobb on Spam
About 10 years ago I started working with like-minded thought leaders in the Internet, e-commerce, and infosec communities to develop practical solutions to the problem of spam. The following are some of my notes on this effort including links to the Trusted Sender and SpamSquelcher projects.
Much of the content here, and many of the links, are from around 2001 to 2005, some even earlier. However, I updated the main narrative in this column in April, 2010. As time permits I will be adding some fresh links about the slow but still ongoing struggle to abolish spam.
The Spam Problem
The main variables in spam perception among recipients of email seem to be how long they have used a particular email address, how careful they have been to protect that address, and how well their ISP is managing spam for them. The main variables for sysadmins are the extent to which their networks are targeted and the effectiveness of the defensive measures they have afforded to defend them.
What we can say for sure is that while spam continues to constitute up to 90 percent of all email traffic it will inevitably mean more far resources are spent managing an organization's email than if people would just stop spamming.
One area where spam really hurts is if you send a lot of email that is not spam, maybe as an online retailer sending out weekly coupon offers to customers, or a charity communicating with donors, or a bank emailing electronic statement notices. If you are in this boat then you know the pain that spam causes for legitimate amilers. Your view of spam and spammers is likely to loathing or worse.
That Was When?
The sad truth is, repeated efforts to persuade the major Internet service providers to cooperate on a universal spam solution have not yet succeeded. Despite numerous announcements by major Internet service providers pledging to cooperate to end spam. the problem is still as bad as ever. (When I updated this page in May, 2009, some 90% of all email traffic was spam; and when I checked Symantec's State of Spam & Phishing Report for April, 2010 it said spam made up 89.34 percent of all messages in March 2010, compared with 89.99 percent in February, 2010.)
2002 was more than a missed opportunity for ISPs to alleviate spam's drain on the Internet economy; it actually left the door open to a new breed of email abuse, phishing scams. There was virtually no phishing activity in 2002, relatively little in 2003, but loads in 2004.
Phishing is an extension of spam techniques and could have been squelched, along with the rest of spam, if the industry had chosen to cooperate to end spam rather than compete for customers based on promises of "better anti-spam than the other guys."
One notable success in the anti-spam effort, something which helps sysadmins protect their networks against spam, was the SpamSquelcher—later TurnTide—anti-spam technology, acquired by Symantec in 2004. Other solutions that I worked on, like Trusted Sender, a clever technology to verify email senders, did not fare so well. But make no mistake, I would love Bill to have been right. I don't mind who gets the credit as long as a universal solution is achieved.
I would have been delighted to see spam disappear in 2005 or 2006 or even 2009. I'd cheerfully eat a can of SPAM to celebrate, but history does not provide many hopeful signs. Speaking of history, the following links document some of the spam fighting efforts with which we were involved from 2001 to 2004.
and Network Resource Theft Prevention
Spam Filters Only Make Things Worse
The Multi-Billion Dollar Corporate
on the New York spam verdict: 1/24/03
on the economics of spam: February, 2003
More information about Trusted Sender technology.
More information about Spam Squelcher technology.
More information about Trusted Email Open Standard.
Updated April, 2010, by webbloke at cobbsblog.com ©
Stephen Cobb, 1996-2010