Making a Difference

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-06-16 Print this article Print

So, why does anyone think a registry could make a difference? The best you could hope from a registry is a new bunch of civil suits wasting court resources to go after spammers who wont be found anyway.

But once we have a generally accepted SMTP authentication system in place, things change. You can imagine a lot of CAN-SPAM being a lot more enforceable. As a side effect, I would expect almost all of the big spammers to move operations offshore, but its possible that they would then become more filterable. Clearly, we would be in a better position than we are now, and filtering software would be able to work much better than it does.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
Schumer also makes the inevitable and naive analogy to the do-not-call registry. But the phone system doesnt allow for identity spoofing as readily as does the e-mail system. And Im not so enthusiastic about how well the do-not-call registry is working either. The law is riddled with exceptions for charities, for people doing phony surveys and for any vendor with whom you already do business. I get lots of calls, and Ive been on the registry since day one. Of course, a politician doesnt really need a functioning system, just a system they can take credit for.

And registry proponents seem oblivious to the potential for ironic abuse in the system; that the list would become available to spammers and turn into a "Please Spam Me" list. Face it, folks, were dealing with a completely amoral bunch, and they would abuse it if possible. Penalties for such abuse are just closing the barn door after the horse is long gone.

The proposals coming out of MARID are not perfect by any means, and it would be better if they were not controversial in the industry. But they have a much better chance of improving things on the ground for e-mail users than any phony global opt-out list.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at for the latest security news, reviews and analysis.

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Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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