Netimperative's Philip Buxton argues that ISPs need to step up their efforts to stop spam.
By Philip Buxton, editor of Netimperative (www.netimperative.com), 25 April 2003.
Can You Take Any More Spam?
If spam critical mass were a definable quantity, I think it would be fair to describe it as less than one genuine email in 30, which is the current condition of my inbox.
In the last couple of weeks, we have featured a number of columns and pieces of research on the subject and while this is due in part to our inherent dislike for the stuff - genuine opt-in email senders are greatly at risk from the threat of spam - it is also due to the amount of information we are now receiving on the topic.
Soon we'll be revealing details of just what we plan to do about it - for now, discussing the subject seems a fair starting point. The answers to simple questions, such as 'does the out-of-office assistant provide our email address to spam senders?' seem beyond most of us and it's clear that there are some simple steps we ourselves can take to address the disgraces that are our morning inbox. A quick tip-list provided by a respondent to Niki Panourgias's rather controversial column on Monday is posted at the bottom of this comment for your perusal.
But, as AOL is now in the process of trying to prove, there is much, much more that can be done. So far, users have put up with spam as a price worth paying for the practical joy of email. However, there is a significant groundswell of people now convinced that the price has risen too high. In practical terms, this means that companies will, if not invest in anti-spam technology, then at least learn and deploy the tools already at their disposal. It also means potential legal steps to prevent spam will be taken more readily, and that the government, ISPs, industry bodies, and anybody with any relation to the process of spam will be under ever greater scrutiny.
We have never really dealt with the intrusion of direct marketing mail-drops in the offline world and it's hard to define just what makes the online version even more frustrating (their lack of verbal flair is my principal beef), but infuriating it most certainly is and we are without question at a point of action.
For the moment, AOL deserves the best of luck, ISPs need to step up their efforts and companies need to see what can be done to further protect our own inboxes. I for one would delight in no longer being led to believe that there is money in the penis enlargement business.
Paul at ASP developer Cactusoft writes:
1. Remove email addresses from your web sites and replace them with a contact form instead. For safety, send autoresponders to anyone emailing these addresses informing them the account is no longer checked and that they should use the web form.
2. Use major blocklists - many small companies don't bother because they don't realize that MailDaemon software supports these DNS-based systems and that using them is free. We use spamhaus, spamcop and spews, among others. While it is possible to block innocent mail, a clear bounce message can be set up and direct people to a web site form instead.
3. Filter email based on headers - MailDaemon and other such packages allow filtering of mail based on specific headers. ISP can tag mails with X-warning tags if the originating IP address is on one of the lists they're checking. Filter on this and delete such mail.
Philip Buxton began his career in journalism as a reporter for licensed trade newspaper the Licensee & Morning Advertiser, having completed a degree in marketing at Lancaster University's business school. He then joined national business weekly Marketing Week as a reporter, taking responsibility for the magazine's new media news coverage three months later. He joined netimperative (www.netimperative.com) in April 2000 as a reporter on its media & marketing channel and was appointed editor in April 2002.