No End in Sight for Spam

 
 
By Matt Gaylen  |  Posted 2004-03-29 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Do people purchase prescription drugs or pornography from anonymous companies that represent themselves with gibberish? If so, we have bigger problems than spam, Matt Gaylen writes.

Today I received e-mail that promised, "w dnmlgdwnxgfghgqz uyfnj wevjaublosgilsxm gjrme niimddptcwcwfawpummyx t." Its like the spammers are saying, "Im going to invade your privacy despite your best efforts to stop me, and oh, by the way, as long as were talking, how about whipping out your credit card?"

Is anybody that gullible? Do people purchase prescription drugs or pornography from anonymous companies that represent themselves with gibberish? If so, we have bigger problems than spam.

In this space in the Jan. 19 issue, Helen Roberts suggested that self-regulation, consumer education and technology are the best ways to fight spam.

Because her company, Responsys, provides e-mail marketing solutions, her statements are self-serving. But Roberts remarks also betray a widespread sentiment: resignation.

We have come to accept certain things as part of life—bad traffic, random wanding at the airport, death, taxes and now spam. The spammers have won a significant battle, the battle for our complacency.

Currently, more than 60 percent of all e-mail messages sent are spam. Sure, there is the CAN-Spam Act, and there is a new movement afoot for outgoing authentication—Caller ID for e-mail. But if e-mail Caller ID works no better in reducing spam than telephone Caller ID worked at reducing telemarketing, then we wont be receiving much help.

In addition, we already know that the only way outgoing authentication can work is if the technology industry adopts it as a standard. But even in the event of a miracle like that, the odds are good that as with telephone Caller ID, marketers will develop technology that will defeat authentication.

Do you really expect we will be able to significantly reduce spam any time soon? No, you do not. Youve abandoned hope. Youve descended into the seventh circle of e-mail hell. Youre even thinking about sending your letters by snail mail again. Thats how bad it is. The opportunities presented by instantaneous communication have been destroyed by the few, the shameless, the greedy.

Spam is a crime of destruction. Spam destroys our ability to do business, and fighting back is difficult. We can pass laws until were blue in the face, but with spam machines operating offshore, whats the use?

We can try to develop technologies to defeat spammers technologies, but its pretty clear that spammers technologies are always going to be a step ahead.

For the present, we just might have to be satisfied—if not happy—to live with a daily dose of electronic garbage.

Matt Gaylen is the director of training and orientation at Facility Wizards Software, in Chicago, which serves the facility management and real estate industries. His e-mail address is matt@facilitywiz.com. Free Spectrum is a forum for the IT community. Send your submissions to free_spectrum@ziffdavis.com.

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