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email war
by Douglas Rushkoff - New Straits Times 08/09/1997

Most people are pretty good at identifying the subject lines of adverts and then deleting without reading the mail. But as I sit herein in a hotel room in Edinburgh, attempting to file my column via email to London, I realize that spam has effectively crippled my ability to conduct Internet tasks I used to find easy.

This means war.
Like many of you, I use a program called Eudora to send and receive email. No matter where I am or what service I've used, it lets me identify the place on my home server where email is kept, and then send or receive messages.

This way, even though my home server only has a New York phone number and I am in Scotland, I can use the local UK dial-in number for the Microsoft Network or any other service  where I have an account , and then hop over and get my email.

No long distance calls required. But last week, when I tried to reply to some email, I got a disturbing message "Error 550, access denied." Access Denied?



After a harrowing series of long distance calls with my provider, I learned the painful truth. The same feature that allows me to send email from a foreign server allows ruthless spam advertisers to send email with no return address.

know that most people hate them and that sending unwanted mail to millions of recipients is grounds for having their accounts terminated by their own access providers.

To mask their own originating addresses, they have exploited the way the Internet passes mail from server to server . They use third party hosts as a relay for their mail.

The routing headers imply, to anyone but the most educated Internet users, that the mail comes from the third party's  mail server. The problems this creates for Internet service providers can be catastrophic.

First, relaying an extra few million email addresses puts a tremendous stress on the mail server, slowing down everybody's connections or even overloading  the server altogether.

Then, since the spam  seems to be coming from the innocent, third party server, annoyed recipients complain to the victimized provider.

This means more angry email and phone calls for them to process. Worse, when other service providers detect that a large amount of spam mail is coming from the innocent, offending mail server, they often choose to block all mail from that server .

Once this happens, no subscriber of the first provider can reach anyone on any of the services that have blocked their own provider.

In an attempt to protect itself from abuse by spammers, my service provider is re-engineering  its system so that hosts outside its own network are now unable to relay mail through its machines. This happens to include the hosts I have always used to send email when I'm on the road.

I  know there are other solutions to my problem. I can use Telnet to connect to my server, but then I lose the capabilities like attaching files or automatically saving messages to my had drive.

Solutions? For starters, take your email address off your Web page. Spammers use programs that automatically search Web pages for addresses.

Instead, spell it out, as in "rushkoff" at interport net" and explain why you did it. Also, don't browse the Web from your usual account or with your normal email address.

Any site you visit can collect and sell your address. Ask your service provider how to create a pseudonymous email address, visit:

Spam Buster sites
Spam Buster

Spam Killer

COALITION Against Unsolicited Commercial Email

STOP SPAM FAQ page on the web

The NETWORK Abuse clearing house

More ideas on how to stamp out spam


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