Re: [Asrg] Shannon Jacob's article on spam

"Shannon Jacobs" <shanen@acm.org> Mon, 19 May 2003 21:02 UTC

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From: Shannon Jacobs <shanen@acm.org>
To: Asrg@ietf.org
References: <004301c31d99$6e777470$3e0a37cb@advdata.com.au>
Subject: Re: [Asrg] Shannon Jacob's article on spam
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Date: Tue, 20 May 2003 06:00:00 +0900
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Well, I'm not quite gone yet...

Chui Tey wrote:
> Shannon's email caught my attention. The following is a link to his
> article, published on the ACM.
>
> http://www.acm.org/ubiquity/views/s_jacobs_2.html
>
> I don't really get what he is trying to say though. He seems to think
> the server already knows what is spam and what isn't. This just isn't
> the case.

Quite an ancient article, and focused on a purely technical solution. Part
of it is related to some of the filtering algorithms in use now (though I
don't think the technique was in use at that time), but the other part was a
suggestion to modify the MX record system to maximize the effectiveness of
filtering. By increasing the volume of spam at the filtering computers, you
would also increase the probability of reliably detecting the spam.

I'm not repudiating the ideas, but I have come to regard the purely
technical solutions as part of a never-ending and ever escalating war. The
real problem is economic--the spammers think they are dividing by zero, so
ANY return on their "zero investment" seems infinitely large.


> There are some forum discussions as well.
<snip>
> Warning: The discussions are of a pretty low quality, compared to
> what runs on this list.

I concur with your assessment of the quality of those discussions and had
hoped for better within the ACM environment. The idea of Ubiquity is
interesting, but didn't seem to be going anywhere, and I haven't written
anything for them in quite a while. I think the main problems are lack of
search tools and lack of editing, but that's getting off of the topic of
spam.


<snip>
> Assuming that we live in a landscape where 99% of emails are spam,
> how do we identify that our outgoing emails are legitimate? We need a
> standard way to signal:
>
> a) Please let this mail through. It is important to me. I have
> expended X amount of effort or money, here's the proof.
> b) If your filter refused to let this mail through, please notify me
> so that I can try another method. This is important to me. I have
> expended X amount of effort or money, here's the proof.
> c) Please let this mail through, I would like to permit the SMTP
> server to publish my IP address on the email so that the recipients
> filter could verify that I am not a spammer.
>
> Micropayments made to a charitable organization could be a worthy
> goal. Perhaps, organizations such as Medicines San Frontiers could
> sign our messages on a per receiver basis, or issue one-use tickets?
> This is just so that we could get our emails through if we are
> corresponding with a new party for the first time.

I've seen other proposals for charity postage, but I think that is
fundamentally at odds with the realities. The spammers are certainly not
doing it for charity, and we shouldn't try to fight fire with light bulbs.
However, I've already said that I think the obvious solution is to provide
an alternative cash-up-front email system. There are plenty of things wrong
with snail mail, but it does work quite effectively in limiting the volume
of physical spam we receive

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