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When Registrars Look the Other Way, Drug-Dealers Get Paid

Since November of last year we have been discussing the problem of illicit and illegal online pharmacy support by ICANN-accredited Registrars. In several articles and direct contact with the Registrars we have tirelessly tried to convey the seriousness of this problem, many listened, some did not... With the background information already known, the case presented here is much more specific and concerns EvaPharmacy, which was until recently, the world's largest online criminal pharmacy network. more»

How to Stop Spam

I got a letter the other day from AOL postmaster Carl Hutzler, about how the Internet community could get rid of spam, if it really wanted to. With his permission, here are some excerpts. "Spam is a completely solvable problem. And it does not take finding every Richter, Jaynes, Bridger, etc to do it (although it certainly is part of the solution). In fact it does not take email identity technologies either (although these are certainly needed and part of the solution)." more»

Port 25 Blocking, or Fix SMTP and Leave Port 25 Alone for the Sake of Spam?

Larry Seltzer wrote an interesting article for eWeek, on port 25 blocking, the reasons why it was being advocated, and how it would stop spam. This quoted an excellent paper by Joe St.Sauver, that raised several technically valid and true corollaries that have to be kept in mind when blocking port 25 -- "cough syrup for lung cancer" would be a key phrase... Now, George Ou has just posted an article on ZDNET that disagrees with Larry's article, makes several points that are commonly cited when criticizing port 25 blocking, but then puts forward the astonishing, and completely wrong, suggestion, that worldwide SPF records are going to be a cure all for this problem. Here is my reply to him... more»

The Future of Some Email May Not Use Email

Paul McNamara quotes me extensively in this piece on the EFF protest of Goodmail. When I say "the EFF has lost its mind", i really mean "the EFF has lost its way". In the early days, the EFF was about preventing the government from ruining the Internet commons, and preventing the government from putting walls on the frontier. These days, the EFF is more about preventing companies who have no power to regulate from doing things the EFF doesn't like. That is a huge change, and one that makes the EFF much less worthy of support... more»

Internet Governance: An Antispam Perspective

All those Internet Governance pundits who track ICANN the way paparazzi track Paris Hilton are barking up the wrong tree. They've mistaken the Department of Street Signs for the whole of the state. The real action involves words like rbldnsd, content filtering, and webs of trust. Welcome to the Internet! What's on the menu today? Spam, with some phish on the side! We've got email spam, Usenet spam, IRC spam, IM spam, Jabber spam, Web spam, blogs spam, and spam splogs. And next week we'll have some brand new VoIP spam for you. Now that we're a few years into the Cambrian explosion of messaging protocols, I'd like to present a few observations around a theme and offer some suggestions. more»

Sender Address Verification: Solving the Spam Crisis

There are many companies in the spam-fighting business and most, if not all, claim to be hugely successful. Yet spam is exponentially more prevalent today than it was just 2 years ago. How can one conclude that today's anti spam solutions are working? This year spammers will use machine-generated programs to send trillions of unsolicited email. Thankfully, a new anti-spam technology has made its way into the market. more»

EFF on Goodmail: Further Confusing an Already Confused Issue

Cindy's piece on the EFF website seems to be a bit of a pastiche, with elements taken out of various articles (some outright wrong, some merely misinformed) that have been doing the rounds of the media for quite a while now about Goodmail. She started off comparing AOL and Goodmail with the old email hoax about congress taxing email. That same line was used in a CircleID post by Matt Blumberg, CEO & Chairman of Returnpath... Various other quotes from different places - Richard Cox from Spamhaus on CNN for example. However a lot of the quotes in those articles are being based on wrong or out of context assumptions, starting with one that goes "AOL is going to remove all its existing whitelists and force people to use Goodmail". more»

Implications of Canada's CASL - Toughest Anti-Spam Law the World Has Ever Seen

While Canada was dragging the chain when it came to introducing anti-spam legislation, it is now making up for lost time. Ottawa's new law -- expected to be operational early this year -- has severe fines for violations and is viewed by some as too tough. Known as CASL, the new law aims to crack down on spammers and mailing list companies but in doing so, tightly regulates the way businesses can market to prospective customers via email and online. more»

Spam Fighting: Lessons from Jack Bauer?

As I blogged about several months ago, as did numerous other anti-spam bloggers, David Ritz was sued by Jeffrey Reynolds and a judge in North Dakota agreed with Reynolds. At the heart of the case was that Ritz engaged in anti-spam activities using techniques known only to a small subset of advanced computer users, and used these techniques maliciously against Reynolds... Back in the olden days of spam fighting, some anti-spammers used to use malicious techniques against spammers in order to shut them down... more»

Searching Under Lampposts with DKIM

Email is a complex service and email abuse adds confusing deceptions. Worse, like postal mail and even telephone service, Internet mail is inherently open, flexible and even anonymous, making things much easier for abusers. Bad actors hide their true identity and their true purpose. Most other communication tools for users also are also quite open, and problems with email are being replicated elsewhere, such as instant messaging and social media. more»

Hypertext Mail Protocol (a.k.a. Stub Email): A Proposal

Back in the days of dial-up modems and transfer speeds measured in hundreds of bits per second, unwanted email messages were actually felt as a significant dent in our personal pocketbooks. As increases in transfer speeds outpaced increases in spam traffic, the hundreds of unwanted emails we received per week became more of a nuisance than a serious financial threat. Today sophisticated spam filters offered by all major email providers keep us from seeing hundreds of unwanted emails on a daily basis, and relatively infrequently allow unwanted messages to reach our coveted Inboxes. So, to some degree, the spam problem has been mitigated. But this "mitigation" requires multiple layers of protection and enormous amounts of continually-applied effort. more»

Challenges in Anti-Spam Efforts

Without commenting on the particulars as they relate to Goodmail -- especially since I am on the advisory board for Habeas, a competitor -- let me note that public discussion is largely missing the nature of the current Internet mail realities and the nature of the ways we can deal with them. There are two articles in the current issue of the Internet Protocol Journal, of which I wrote one, that provide some useful background about this reality. Simply put, Internet mail needs to sustain spontaneous communications... more»

AOL and Goodmail: Two Steps Back for Email

Remember the old email hoax about Hillary Clinton pushing for email taxation? When we first heard AOL's plans for Goodmail today, we thought maybe the hoax had re-surfaced and a few industry reporters got hooked by it. But alas, this tax plan seems to be true. AOL has long held the leading standard in email whitelisting. Every email sender who cares about delivery has tried to keep their email reputation high so that they could earn placement on AOL's coveted Enhanced Whitelist. Now, AOL may be saying that those standards don't matter as much as a postage stamp when it comes to email delivery. more»

Phish-Proofing URLs in Email?

For those who've been living in an e-mail free cave for the past year, phishing has become a huge problem for banks. Every day I get dozens of urgent messages from a wide variety of banks telling me that I'd better confirm my account info pronto. ...Several people have been floating proposals to extend authentication schemes to the URLs in a mail message. A sender might declare that all of links in it are to its own domain, e.g., if the sender is bigbank.com, all of the links have to be to bigbank.com or maybe www.bigbank.com. Current path authentication schemes don't handle this, but it wouldn't be too hard to retrofit into SPF. ...So the question is, is it worth the effort to make all of the senders and URLs match up? more»

The User Experience with New TLDs: How to Avoid the Junk Mail File or 'User Unknown'

As new Top-Level Domains (TLDs) are launched, the industry mustn't overlook the customer experience. A key question is this: Will the software applications we all use, recognize the new TLDs and know what to do with them in a timely fashion? Think email and even form-fill applications. I speak from experience here. In 2006 when we launched the .MOBI TLD, there were arguably only a handful of .MOBI email addresses in existence. To my dismay, I found that often emails sent only from my .MOBI account were not being received at the other end... more»