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The Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act of 2008

Last week Sen. Snowe filed bill S.2661, the Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act of 2008, or APCPA. While its goals are laudable, I have my doubts about some of the details. The first substantive section of the bill, Section 3, makes various phishy activities more illegal than they are now in its first two subsections. It makes it specifically illegal to solicit identifying information from a computer under false pretenses, and to use a domain name that is deceptively similar to someone else's brand or name on the web in e-mail or IM to mislead people... more

Sender ID: A Tale of Open Standards and Corporate Greed? - Part I

A long long time ago when the Internet was still young and most people were still using clunky Apples, PCs and mainframes; two documents were published by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), part of the US Government's Department of Defense. They were called "RFC 821 - Simple Mail Transfer Protocol" and "RFC 822 - Standard for the format of ARPA Internet text messages" respectively. Written by the John Postel and Dave Crocker respectively, often referred to as some of the founding fathers of the Internet, they defined a simple text-based email system for the use of the fledging network then called the "ARPA Internet"... more

Does the Internet Need to be Governed?

The term "Internet Governance" has become an area of particular attention in part as a consequence of widespread recognition that the Internet represents an important area of national interest for all countries seeking to participate in the benefits of global electronic commerce, distance learning, access to the encyclopedic wealth of information on the Internet, and in the social dimension that the Internet is creating. From the perspective of governments, the Internet is simultaneously a technology that promises high economic value for parties making use of it and a challenge in that it is unlike all other telecommunications media previously invented. more

SPF Loses Mindshare

MAAWG is the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working group. It was started by Openwave, a vendor that sells e-mail hardware and software to large ISPs and originally consisted only of Openwave customers, but has evolved into an active forum in which large ISPs and software vendors exchange notes on anti-spam and other anti-abuse activities. Members now include nearly every large ISP including AOL, Earthlink, Yahoo, Comcast and Verizon is a member, along with ESPs like Doubleclick, Bigfoot, and Checkfree, and vendors like Ciscom, Ironport, Messagelabs, Kelkea/Trend, and Habeas. They've also been quietly active in codifying best practices and working on some small but useful standards like a common abuse reporting format. more

Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail Compromised - But How?

One of the bigger news stories is that of 10,000 usernames and passwords of Hotmail users were posted this past week, victims of a phishing scam... It seems unlikely to me that this would be a hack where someone would break into Hotmail's servers and access the account information that way. It is much more likely that the spammers got the information by social engineering. Why is this more likely? For one, they'd have to get past all of the firewalls and security measures that Microsoft/Hotmail have to keep intruders out. more

Sender Address Verification: Still a Bad Idea

A lot of spam uses fake return addresses. So back around 2000 it occurred to someone that if there were a way to validate the return addresses in mail, they could reject the stuff with bad return addresses. A straightforward way to do that is a callout, doing a partial mail transaction to see if the putative sender's mail server accepts mail to that address. This approach was popular for a few years, but due to its combination of ineffectiveness and abusiveness, it's now used only by small mail systems whose managers don't know any better. What's wrong with it? more

Who Is Blocking WHOIS? Part 2

We have just returned from the Brussels, Belgium ICANN meeting where we released our Registrar audit, the Internet "Doomsday Book." There are many topics covered in the report, but we wanted to follow up specifically on the issue of WHOIS access and add data to our previous column Who Is Blocking WHOIS? which covered Registrar denial of their contracted obligation to support Port 43 WHOIS access. more

Thoughts About "Protection Against BIND"

Imagine my surprise upon reading a BBC article which identified ISC BIND as the top security vulnerability to UNIX systems. At ISC, we have striven for a decade to repair BIND's reputation, and by all accounts we have made great progress. "What could this be about," I wondered, as I scanned the BBC article for more details. It turns out that BBC was merely parroting what it had been told by SANS. OK, let's see what SANS has to say... more

Fight Spam With the DNS, Not the CIA

It seems like spam is in the news every day lately, and frankly, some of the proposed solutions seem either completely hare-brained or worse than the problem itself. I'd like to reiterate a relatively modest proposal I first made over a year ago: Require legitimate DNS MX records for all outbound email servers.

MX records are one component of a domain's Domain Name System (DNS) information. They identify IP addresses that accept inbound email for a particular domain name. To get mail to, say, linux.com, a mail server picks an MX record from linux.com's DNS information and attempts to deliver the mail to that IP address. If the delivery fails because a server is out of action, the delivering server may work through the domain's MX records until it finds a server that can accept the mail. Without at least one MX record, mail cannot be delivered to a domain.
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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

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

Wall Street Journal Article on Whois Privacy

Today's Wall Street Journal discusses the fight over Whois privacy. The article on the front page of the Marketplace section starts by discussing how the American Red Cross and eBay use the Whois database to track down scammers: "Last fall, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the American Red Cross used an Internet database called "Whois" that lists names and numbers of Web-site owners to shut down dozens of unauthorized Web sites that were soliciting money under the Red Cross logo. Online marketplace eBay Inc. says its investigators use Whois hundreds of times a day..." more

Defending Networks Against DNS Rebinding Attacks

DNS rebinding attacks are real and can be carried out in the real world. They can penetrate through browsers, Java, Flash, Adobe and can have serious implications for Web 2.0-type applications that pack more code and action onto the client. Such an attack can convert browsers into open network proxies and get around firewalls to access internal documents and services. It requires less than $100 to temporarily hijack 100,000 IP addresses for sending spam and defrauding pay-per-click advertisers. Everyone is at risk and relying on network firewalls is simply not enough. In a paper released by Stanford Security Lab, "Protecting Browsers from DNS Rebinding Attacks," authors Collin Jackson, Adam Barth, Andrew Bortz, Weidong Shao, and Dan Boneh provide ample detail about the nature of this attack as well as strong defenses that can be put in place in order to help protect modern browsers. more

Comments on an IP Address Trading Market

With IPv4 addresses becoming scarcer, there has been talk that a trading market will develop. The idea is that those holding addresses they do not really need will sell them for a profit. More alarming is that there have been a few articles about how the Regional Internet Registries (RIR) are contemplating creating such a market so that they can regulate it, conceding that it will happen anyway and taking the "if you can't be 'em, join 'em" attitude. This is all a bit disturbing. Maybe I'm na├»ve, but it's a little unclear to me how an unsanctioned trading market could really operate without the RIRs at least being aware... more

EFF and Its Use of Propaganda: Could Karl Rove do better? Probably

The latest post on DearAOL's blog, by EFF activist coordinator Danny O'Brien, is titled "The Shakedown Begins". In short, Danny receives email from overstock.com on an AOL mailbox -- email that he apparently paid overstock $29.95 to receive. And that email arrives with Goodmail certification that AOL recognizes and flags as such. Danny seems to think this is not the sort of email that should be certified by Goodmail, and that AOL should not suddenly turn on Goodmail certification. Suddenly? more