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Another Try at Proof-of-Work e-Postage Email

Another paper from the Fifth Workshop on the Economics of Information Security, (WEIS 2006) is Proof of Work can Work by Debin Liu and L, Jean Camp of Indiana University. Proof of work (p-o-w) systems are a variation on e-postage that uses computation rather than money. A mail sender solves a lengthy computational problem and presents the result with the message. The problem takes long enough that the sender can only do a modest number per time period, and so cannot send a lot of messages, thereby preventing spamming. But on a net full of zombies, proof of work doesn't work. more

Phishing Moving to the Web Channel

Today we received one of the first phish attempts to be made as a web spam (comment spam/blog spam) attempt. I wasn't convinced, and thought that perhaps it was a way to gather and verify RELEVANT online identities. Someone put me straight. It's phishing. I've often in the past had run-ins with the good folks in the anti virus realm back between 1996 and 2005 who thought Trojan horses and then spyware were not part of their business. Years later the AV business people ruled it is part of their business and ran to catch up. Same with botnets. more

California Frets about Goodmail Email

On Monday the 3rd, California state Senator Dean Flores held a hearing of the E-Commerce, Wireless Technology, and Consumer Driven Programming committee grandly titled AOL: You Have Certified Mail, Will Paid E-mail Lead to Separate, Unequal Systems or is it the Foolproof Answer to Spam?. The senator's office said they were very eager to have me there, to the extent they offered to fly me out from New York, so since I happened to be on the way home from ICANN in New Zealand that weekend, I took a detour through Sacramento. Sen. Florez conducted the hearing, with Sens. Escutia and Torlakson sitting in briefly. Unfortunately, Sen. Bowen, who is very well informed on these topics, wasn't there. There were five panels of speakers, and I got to lead off... 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

What is Anti-Spam?

There's a lot of argument as to which "anti-spam" techniques are legitimately so called. In this article, I'd like to consider what constitutes an anti-spam technique in an ideal sense, then consider the various practiced approaches to spam mitigation in that light, drawing conclusions as to how we should frame the "anti-spam" discussion. ...For the purposes of this discussion, let "spam" refer to "unsolicited bulk email". Not everyone agrees on this definition, but it's by far the most widely accepted, and without a working definition we won't be able to define "anti-spam"... 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

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

How Bad is Goodmail?

Goodmail Systems made a big splash last week when AOL and Yahoo announced that they will be giving preferential treatment to mail that uses Goodmail's CertifiedEmail service, claiming (implausibly) that this has something to do with stopping spam... Since Goodmail charges senders for each message, some people see this as the end of e-mail as we know it. I have my concerns about Goodmail, but a lot of the concerns are either overblown or based on bad reporting... 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

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