The Inbound

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2006-04-20 Print this article Print

/Outbound Issue"> And theres also the inbound/outbound issue: Its one thing to create the DNS entries that allow others to authenticate mail purportedly send by you, even to sign e-mail using DKIM. Its another to authenticate incoming mail, and bolder still to reject mail that doesnt authenticate. If you look at the ESP Coalitions report on the big providers, here in PDF form, youll see most of those verifying incoming mail are actually doing so against the relatively useless SPF standard.

If youre a big organization, you probably know how your own people have been handling e-mail authentication. If youre a small one, you probably havent felt any pressure to do so; perhaps your support will come through outsourcing.

In the short term, it looks like phishing, not spam, will be the test by which e-mail authentication may be judged. Before too long, it may be that all the large organizations subject to phishing attacks (eBay, the big banks and brokerages, etc.) will be able to claim full compliance with outbound authentication.

Such domains have obviously high reputations, so any ISP or other receiving server that authenticates them should be able to block all phishing e-mails that purport to be from genuine domains belonging to the sender. There are ways around this, such as sending the message from (owned by one "Omar B. Bahar" in Springfield, Ill.) rather than from Its still a step forward, and widespread reliance on reputation services should fill the gaps.

Before I lost faith a year or two ago, I thought things would work out this way, that business would jump on authentication and force the rest of us to comply. I still think theres a long road ahead before real organizations can start actually to dump unauthenticated e-mail, but it could happen, and it would be a good thing.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at 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 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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