Microsoft Puts Spam-Fighting Tools in Hands of ISPs, Users

The MSN Hotmail purveyor is attacking domain spoofing and spam filtering from a number of angles, including Sender ID authentication and e-mail traffic reporting.

In an effort to intensify the fight against spam, Microsoft has announced new tools and services aimed at Internet service providers and bulk e-mailers.

The company has launched the MSN Postmaster Web site, an online resource intended to help bulk e-mailers, ISPs, and e-mail service providers understand whats acceptable for sending to Hotmail users and what will be stopped at the spam gates.

Also new is the companys Smart Network Data Services, which reports on characteristics of e-mail traffic sent to Hotmail, so that ISPs can see how their mail is viewed by the e-mail service.

For example, an ISP would be able to discover how much of its e-mail is marked as spam by Hotmail, and can in turn take appropriate action to clean compromised machines or confront alleged spammers.

The new tools are geared in part toward minimizing domain spoofing, which has been a particularly irksome problem, said Kevin Doerr, product unit manager for MSN Hotmail at Microsoft Corp.

"Domain spoofing has been hard to get at, compared to other spam components," he said. "It requires cooperation in the Internet community, and a level of transparency."

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about domain spoofing, and attempts to fight it in Operas latest beta version.

Microsoft has been working to stamp out spam by using a number of tactics, employing aggressive investigation efforts and collaboration with law enforcement, as well as putting its support behind authentication methods like the Sender ID framework.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about the FTCs call on ISPs to crack down on "Spam Zombies."

Microsoft and MSN have been using Sender ID since last fall, Doerr said, and have been testing the capability with Hotmail users since early this year. The e-mail authentication technology protocol is designed to address domain spoofing by delivering more effective spam filtering.

With the new tools and the use of Sender ID, Microsoft hopes to give users more control by allowing them to filter spam themselves, rather than relying on filtering software alone. In coming months, the company plans to make Sender ID alerts visible through a new safety bar in the Hotmail user interface.

"Were putting pieces together that have to do with bringing information to the surface," Doerr said. "For users, that means being able to ascertain the veracity of their e-mail. If users have that kind of assessment power, and theres transparency about domains, it puts spammers at a significant disadvantage."

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