Lavasoft News - February 2007

Letters to the Editor

What will happen to email? And for the same reasons ... what will happen to snail mail given the ferocity of thieves willing to hitch powerful towing vehicles to mail boxes, ATM's, or to drive through store-fronts with stolen vehicles and speed stolen merchandise to awaiting vehicles. Well, in spite of all this the public is learning that simply voting at election time is no guarantee that politicians will do anything in the interest of the general public unless that public also lobbies as aggressively as the industries who garner all of Washington's attention. Law enforcement seems mired by the sheer number of cases and often engages in shifting responsibilities from one agency to another. Security, apprehension and prosecution of thieves, aggressive policing, and new technologies will begin to occur when the public and protection industries recognize the value of mutually beneficial relationships that provide both political influence as well as publicity - both negative and positive - for those politicians who respond.

For now, I have no choice but to close some accounts in favor of those companies who have aggressive spam filtering and are not willing to sell lists of customers to advertisers and spammers. Even my Blackberry receives unwanted penny stock promotions and drug offerings as a result of mail intercepts and violations of recipient databases. Successful installation of firewalls and security software requires that vendors do more to assure proper installation and operation by small companies and users who may not be IT professionals.

Email will probably continue for some time as all forms of communication create vulnerabilities, but until enforcement and the penalty for sending spam exceeds the potential for profit, spam and ID theft will remain a thriving business and an attractive opportunity to escalate into other crimes. Thanks for being there!

Best regards,

Your customer ...
K. Korpi

Like many others, I find the continued bombardment of my in-box with spam to be frustrating and infuriating. It has become a real pain to clear the junk from the wanted communications, and I end up spending more and more time doing so.

But I refuse to let a small handful of sociopaths wreck one of the greatest communication tools ever devised by man. The laws made CAN be enforced. New laws CAN be legislated to deal with the slimy devils that continue to promote this atrocity. And the general public CAN be educated to stop responding to these invasions, thereby taking the profit out of it.

We as a society need to deal harshly with those who wish to destroy the email system, and we need to do it soon.

Best regards,

Skip

I used to be a software engineer and my solution is very simplistic, but it would work for me.

Simply write a small applet that will see all incoming e-mail and whatever does not come from anyone in my predefined list, it will not be allowed to get to my mailbox.

If it is used along with a software such as Lavasoft's (Ad-Aware) to prevent anyone from stealing the list, then only the people that I want to receive e-mail from will have access to my mailbox.

If someone wants to drop an e-mail they will have to ask me (over the phone). If it is my pleasure to receive something from them, then I will add it to the list. Later, I will remove it if I don't want them to continue having access.

Do you think is do-able?

Mario

Dear Lavasoft editor,

To send a 'priority' letter of 50 g maximum of 'standard' format to an address in my own country, Belgium, will cost me € 0.52 and it will take one day to arrive at its destination. The same letter to another European country will cost € 0.70 and it will take about three days to be delivered. The same to another destination costs € 0.80 and it may take one to two weeks to get to my correspondent. At present I can send an email for instantaneous delivery to any address worldwide absolutely free of charge - and the same applies to spammers. I wouldn't mind paying, say, € 0.10 to send an email but I doubt that the senders of about 100 billion spam messages would be prepared to spend € 10 billion per year. (Aside from stopping spammers this might also discourage legitimate mailers from flooding the email boxes of the unconcerned with useless copies.)

I don't know how one could realistically implement a 'pay as you mail' scheme. Maybe it's a matter of creating a network of legitimate email service providers, who charge the fee, and leaving it to the users to accept mail from those only. Maybe it's a matter of setting up a central fee-charging switch (something like the SWIFT inter-bank system) that would redistribute its net earnings pro rata to the email providers.

Not easy, I'm sure, but I just don't see how technology can solve the spam problem.

With best regards,

Jan

Digging deeper into Outlook Express 6 message rules, I discovered it was possible to only download email from persons listed in my 'addresses' as well as an approved list. All other email is deleted on the server every time I use 'send/receive'...no more spam!

Of course this is not viable for accounts that are used for general mail from unknown sources, but works well for personal email.

Grump

I read your articles about spam. The biggest incentive for spammers is that e-mail is free. When the current e-mail system collapses, and it will, the replacement should be private e-mail services, charging a nominal fee to send an e-mail, like an electronic stamp. You would make a contract with an e-mail provider, pay into your account, like a pre-paid phone card, and send messages until your account needs payment. Auto payment from debit or credit cards, or PayPal-like systems would work well. What's to keep the spammers from setting up a bot net to send their spams? I don't know, but I think the ISPs have to get in on this by blocking every unpaid e-mail and isolating the computer that is sending them until the problem is resolved. If the ISP doesn't do this, then it could be charged by the appropriate e-mail provider. If ISPs don't agree to such conditions, then their ISP licenses to do business should be suspended or revoked until they comply. Other ways to ensure the e-mail outgoing is authentic would be to develop software so that the sender has to physically validate it to send, like using a special password or security symbol. E-mails could go to central 'clearing house' servers where they are validated as properly paid "stamped" e-mails and not a mass-mailing and then sent on to the destination. Spammers who devise work arounds to the various security and validation techniques could be prosecuted for illegal activity.

The bottom line is, I would be willing to pay for e-mail if it would guarantee only legitimate mail would come to my inbox.

Joseph

I just wanted to put forth my two-cents-worth; In the fight against spam there are two fronts that are not really being tackled effectively. First is education - the majority of the [cyber] uneducated people really do not understand what spam really means or the consequences of clicking that link. Like innocent lambs they trust verbatim anything that appears in their mailbox or on their favorite page, especially if it sounds innocent or is familiar. If the government and organizations inundated the public with awareness campaigns with as much ferocity as the spammers do our inbox then nobody would be clicking those links and ultimately that is where the money comes from?!? Throwing awareness ads in the right places can make a huge difference, put them in with the Monday night hockey, etc., that would do more than a thousand web-ads or bulletins. The interesting thing about education is that the majority of people purchasing software from companies such as Lavasoft already is aware and is a lower risk-factor and yet they are the ones that read the anti-spam bulletins - really this group does not need much more education. The target should be the other group and they are never going to read those bulletins because they aren't aware of them in the first place, thus they need to be targeted where they can be reached. Yeah, putting ads on television is expensive, but that's where governmental bodies come in, someone has to pull all the right people together - cooperation is possible it just has to be negotiated properly.

Second is ISP responsibility - Rogers Internet & Yahoo recently made available free of charge to their customers the Norton Suite of tools which includes email scanning, etc. This is a fantastic first step and puts the obligation squarely in the hands of the consumer; I have no compassion for any Rogers customers that are victimized because they don't have a firewall when the software is freely available - Rogers pushes the message on almost everything they publish, it is impossible to not be aware. For them this tackles my first point quite effectively. But there is more they could do, many ISP's have the ability to track and filter the bulk majority of recognized spam and yet they don't. The way I see it, if my email scanner (Mailwasher Pro) can quite effectively identify well over 90% of the spam out there then so can the ISP, and if the ISP is trapping the email right at the front then the client never even sees it - again we have reduced the effectiveness of the spam itself. In addition, many ISP's should be able to identify many of the Zombie machines running on their network if by no other means than the mass of mail streaming out from them. Now some people right off the bat are waving their fists in anger at the perceived 'Violation of privacy' that a proactive approach ensues, but to them I say 'It's that or a deluge of Cialis, stock and breast-size ads that are often much more offensive and damaging.'

In conclusion, the tools to deal with spam as a whole are out there but the most effective place to apply them is not my inbox but on the ISP's themselves and combine that with a solid education plan and we can put these crooks out of business - at least until they dream up the next great idea.

Thanks for letting me speak out;

Pat

I don't know that email will have to be replaced, but using it publicly is getting to be a problem. For those who can whitelist acceptable email contacts, spam can be mostly excluded. I have never received a spam message from someone I have listed in my address book, so I can winnow out my spam by filtering based on recognition rules. For those who receive mail unsolicited, such as columnists, the issue is a little more difficult; they would have to exclude everyone except for their circulation lists, and that would exclude spontaneous communications like the very message I am writing now. Ultimately, getting rid of spam pests will probably close off communications to some extent. An unfortunate consequence of parasitic behavior.

M. Hartmann

Reading your newsletter it amazes me how Spam can be so profitable. In other words it is amazing how many users can be so taken in. A very simple solution, and I use it, do not accept any email that you are not expecting. If you are not expecting an email from a specific source, delete it without opening. These undesirables will quickly seek other more profitable means of making a buck.

In this respect, more public awareness of the problem, and how easily it is to disrupt it, must be made at every level. Merely using a computer and the internet does not give license to abuse it and in turn cause grief for others!

R. Gardner

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Letters to the Editor
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