E-Mail Firms Urge Anti-Spam Measures

From Reuters

Internet users who unwittingly send out millions of spam messages should be taken offline until their machines can be cleaned up, four of the nation’s largest e-mail providers said Tuesday.

Yahoo Inc., EarthLink Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc.’s America Online told other e-mail providers that spam could not be stopped unless they took responsibility for the problem.

That means patching security holes in their systems, adopting standards to prevent forged e-mail and isolating customer computers that have been taken over by spammers, the four companies said.


“It’s really our hope that these best practices are going to catalyze a lot of the other providers out there,” said Ken Hickman, Yahoo’s senior director of mail platform.

Spam accounts for as much as 83% of all e-mail traffic, costing Internet service providers about $500 million each year in wasted bandwidth, legal bills and customer service costs.

Under the banner of the Anti-Spam Technical Alliance, the four companies have sued spammers and developed standards that could make it easier to pinpoint fraudulent e-mail.

Internet companies should make sure their equipment has been properly secured so spammers can’t route their messages through them to cover their tracks and evade filters, the group said. But they also should make sure their customers haven’t been turned into unwitting spammers, the companies said.

A spate of viruses and worms over the last year has allowed spammers to route their traffic through personal computers, allowing come-ons for low mortgage rates and herbal Viagra to appear as if they’re coming from a trusted friend.

AOL executives said 89% of the spam they were seeing came from such “zombie machines.” Microsoft executives put the figure at 40%.


Internet service providers should run spam filters on outbound mail and prevent customers from sending out more than 500 messages a day or 100 an hour to make sure they’re not spamming, the firms said.