Who will set the

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-10-28 Print this article Print

standards?"> You know who else is likely to be assuaged? The FTC. After having made veiled threats to the industry to develop an authentication standard lest one be imposed on them, the FTC will be holding an E-mail Authentication Summit in D.C. Nov. 9-10. The modified Sender ID and support for it from AOL (the home team at D.C. events) are just about the only progress the industry can point to.

Its only been a little over a month, but its not like Ive seen serious efforts to move other proposals forward, with one exception. There is a separate proposed working group, IETF-Mailsig, working on a proposed standard for mail authentication through cryptographic signatures. Lots of top people believe in the cryptographic solution, if not in the short term than as an eventual successor to an IP-based solution like Sender ID.

And just because you support Sender ID doesnt mean you cant support other specs, although the administration can be cumbersome. Meng Wong diagrammed out some of the issues for a dual-Sender ID/Domain Keys implementation. Its hairy, but it can be done. I used to think that multiple implementations would be the norm, but I have to think now that administrators will want one set of records to maintain.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog. If Sender ID muscles its way into e-mail dominance, what will opensource developers do? There was some talk of ignoring or directly challenging the patent application (there is a complicated and expensive process for this called a patent interference; OSS developers arent usually in a position to mount such an effort). Ignoring it would be a dangerous gamble, although I dont think Microsofts going after anyone unless they sue the company over it themselves (i.e., this is a defensive patent).

Personally, Im sick and tired of the lack of achievement that openness and the OSS community have gotten us. If it werent for private companies like Microsoft and Yahoo and Meng Wong personally, we wouldnt have anywhere near as many plausible solutions in sight as we do now.

In the meantime the lack of e-mail authentication and its attendant problems, including spam, phishing and worms, are turning the Internet into a house of horrors.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at http://security.eweek.com for security news, views 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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