Drastic Re-engineering to Stop Spam


Many people advocate solving the spam problem by discarding the current email infrastructure and replacing it with something with something new. This approach is gaining added attention. Bill Gates predicted an end to spam at the recent World Economic Forum. His solution features an electronic postage scheme, presumably based on the Penny Black technology currently being developed by Microsoft.

I think Gates is right that a massive re-engineering is necessary to stop spam, but I think he's looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. Most of the spam coming into our mailboxes today is the result of design flaws and implementation bugs in Microsoft products. If these flaws and vulnerabilities were remedied, the spam problem would drop to a fraction of the current levels.

The problem is that over the past year, virus writers and spam senders have begun pooling their efforts. Microsoft products have always been very susceptible to malware like viruses and worms. At one time this was a local problem. An infected system was a hazard primarily to the PC owner and his co-workers or friends. Now, spammers have discovered how to use malware to convert a PC into a high-volume spam transmitting platform. That has turned malware infection into a global problem, and the primary factor driving the current spam epidemic.

So when Bill Gates says we need to change the infrastructure he's right. But maybe he ought to look at fixing the defects in his own products before trying to remake the entire Internet to ameliorate those defects.


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re: Drastic Re-engineering to Stop Spam

Perversely, what is good about spammers using trojans is that they become criminals in a legal sense (not just an ethical sense) and we can and should recruit the FBI to get on them.