Microsoft Efforts Dont Slice Spam

Even as it takes on spammers, Microsoft comes under fire.

No good spam-fighting deed goes unpunished, or thats how things seem when youre Microsoft. After initiating high-profile lawsuits against spammers and pleading with Congress for tougher regulations, Microsoft itself is taking heat for assisting the targets of its actions. Apparently much unsolicited e-mail comes from the companys own services including Hotmail, and critics charge that junk mailers have exploited Microsofts WebDAV tool.

WebDAV—Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning—is an open set of HTTP protocol extensions that enable people to edit files collaboratively on a remote Web server. "It allows us to deliver a richer Web-based e-mail service," explains Larry Grothaus, MSN product manager.

Unfortunately, WebDAV also allows spammers to send more messages. Normally a user has to fill out a Web form manually to create an e-mail, but WebDAV allows junk e-mailers to run automated scripts for mass mailings that are often anonymous. Critics want Microsoft to prevent spammers from exploiting WebDAV on Hotmail and MSN servers.

Microsoft counters that it has already instituted spam-fighting changes in Hotmail. "We have measures in place to address using WebDAV as an exploitative tool," says Grothaus. These include limiting the number of daily messages sent from a free Hotmail account.

The trouble, say analysts like John Levine of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE), is that you can still "sign up for lots of MSN and Hotmail accounts, then run spamware that pumps out spam via WebDAV using those accounts." Microsoft is considering new approaches to fighting spam. In the meantime, well keep pressing the delete button.