Page 2

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-06-24 Print this article Print

Being in the security business, such companies may be hardened against attack better than you are, but this isnt a guarantee. Even the best-designed services of this type can be attacked in surprising ways, as Akamai was recently. In fact, Faceless National Corp. may be less of a hacker target than NeatoSecurity Technologies. Its a balancing act, but I still like the odds of trusting a service like Postini or FrontBridge rather than having to pay my own IT people to do it.

Being a service also puts these companies in a good position to offer added services. They all protect against spam and viruses and other malware, and some offer filtering against phishing and pornographic materials. MessageLabs actually claims to be able to analyze images to determine if they contain pornography.

What will happen to these services in an era of SMTP authentication? Its tempting to think that they will be less necessary, but I think that authentication will just make these services more effective, and certainly faster. Sure, it will also put the do-it-yourselfer like me in a better position, but it doesnt do all the work for me.

For the next year or two, as standards are worked out in the industry, it will probably be necessary to support multiple standards. I dont know what the service providers plans are in this regard, but they probably should offer as a user-controllable policy the ability to implement different authentication standards, such as the old SPF, the new SPF and Domain Keys. The customer of such services still typically controls his own DNS, so just as the service gives the customer an address for the MX records they will need to provide proper DNS record data for authentication to the customer.

The industry representatives in the recent announcement by the AntiSpam Technical Alliance took pains to say that authentication wasnt "the answer" to spam, but that it was a tool to make anti-spam enforcement more effective. Theyre right, and the tools work for services just as well as they do for products.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at for security news, views and analysis.
Be sure to add our security news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page:   More from Larry Seltzer

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.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel