Whats So Good About

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2006-02-08 Print this article Print

Goodmail Senders?"> What kind of confidence can you have in a sender that sends CertifiedMail? Goodmail doesnt just take your money and send your mail; you have to qualify:
  • You must have been in business for at least one year
  • You must have a business headquarters in the United States or Canada
  • You must send your e-mails from a dedicated IP address, even if sending them through a third-party service provider, and you must have at least a six-month history of sending mail from that address
  • Your sending IP addresses must have a low complaint rate relative to senders in general to Goodmails ISP partners (Clearly Goodmail works with its ISP partners to keep up to date.)
  • You must comply with Goodmails Acceptable Use and Security Policy (here in PDF form) and agree to the Token Purchase Agreement.
Goodmail actually confirms all these claims. And it tracks the complaint levels to make sure senders are living up to their obligations, or at least they claim they will; well see what actually happens.

Theres nothing (that I can see) in Goodmails rules that prohibit the content that we find offensive in spam, like pornography.
But Goodmail would eliminate unsolicited porn-spam (which, for most of us, is all porn-spam). In fact, its hard to see any of the senders of the low-brow bulk of spam getting qualified through Goodmail, and its hard to imagine them being willing to pay the cost of sending the mail. How much does it actually cost? Goodmail says it has no final rate card, but we can expect the cost to be in the neighborhood of one-fourth of a cent per message.

Read more here about the themes at Demo 2006, including service-based computing.

Because phishing is the hot scare these days, Goodmail also is anxious to mention that banks and other phishing targets are good candidates, but its only a partial solution for them. Its true that a recipient of a CertifiedEmail from a bank can act on it with confidence. But when the phishing message comes in, the user needs to notice that its not a CertifiedEmail, and thats another matter. Phishing is really a separate problem with different solutions.

There is a theoretical next level to this; if sender policies to certify all mail to a particular class of recipient were known, then filters could look for any uncertified messages apparently from that sender and block it. This could be a difficult task, and Im not sure anyones actually trying it now.

Once again, Goodmail is not really supposed to address the spam problem. The only real hope for fighting spam and other mail-based abuse, including phishing, is a global system of SMTP authentication—something I used to be excited about. While Ive gotten pessimistic about it, work continues on it. SMTP authentication isnt a complete solution; one of the ways to address the holes in authentication is with accreditation systems, which tell recipients that the sender is not only who they say they are but are vouched for by someone with a reputation of their own at stake.

Far from being something to regret, cost for sending messages is a desirable thing. In fact, if it could be made universal we would all be better off, although it would require a robust user authentication system. If doing so means abandoning the ideal early days of a free Internet open to abuse by the most amoral people out there, then I say bring on the unfree future.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at larryseltzer@ziffdavis.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.

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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