Magazine article Security Management

Paying the Price for Spam. (Tech Talk)

Magazine article Security Management

Paying the Price for Spam. (Tech Talk)

Article excerpt

What can be done to halt the onslaught of spam? The problem is reaching ever-higher proportions, both for corporations and users. On the corporate side, the concern is the rising cost of the traffic (more than $10 billion for American businesses this year, according to a recent report by technology research firm Ferris Research), while for Web surfers, the concern is time and convenience; for example, deleting offensive or annoying messages takes 10-20 minutes per day, according to antivirus firm Symantec. And according to a 2001 study for the European Commission, simply receiving spam cost users $10 billion euros a year worldwide. One pioneer has an idea that he believes may stem the tide: charging spammers for their messages.

Barry Shein, president of The World, a Boston-area Internet service provider, says, "It all comes down to the same problem with both legitimate companies and spammers: they can send millions of messages at you, and there's no real cost to them." Most work to prevent spam has focused on technological solutions such as filters, which Shein calls an arms race in which spammers find ways to circumvent filters.

"The unpopular thing I propose is 'sender pays,'" Shein says. "We have to start billing bulk e-mailers. It has to be metered at the point of delivery, we add it up, and for the major ones where there's enough activity to justify it, send a bill off." While he acknowledges that this proposal would likely be ignored by illegitimate spammers, he says that an organization backed with funds from legitimate bulk e-mailers would also have the resources to go after these scofflaws. …

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