[linux-elitists] On spam, stamps, and hygiene

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Thu Feb 5 11:56:48 PST 2004

Marketplace Radio carried a short fluff item on e-postage yesterday.
Which is only about the third or forth fully clueless tech piece I've
seen in the media this week.

My response:

    Your e-stamps piece Wednesday the 4th was a dissapointingly naive
    bit of advertorial opportunism in the face of the ongoing war
    against spam.

    If a solution to the spam problem is to work without breaking the
    current email system in radical ways, and without making email
    inaccessible to those who've found it a tremendously useful fast,
    and inexpensive communications medium, then "e-postage" is right
    out.  As an individual, I'd spend $350 on postage for the email I've
    sent so far this year -- and that's excluding complaints about spams
    and viruses.  Even a penny or fraction of a penny would make email
    prohibitively expensive to clubs and nonprofits who run mailing
    lists with hundreds or thousands of subscribers as an inexpensive
    way to stay in touch.

    Worse, "transactionalizing" activities on the Internet opens a
    Pandora's box many have feared for years.  It's an open secret that
    Microsoft have wanted to worm their way into financial transaction
    processing for years, competing with the likes of Visa and
    Mastercard -- for a small take of each transaction.

    The fact is that email is a behavioral problem -- it's abuse of a
    rich communications channel by a very small number of groups.
    Spamhaus.org, which tracks spam and spammers, estimates 90% of spam
    comes from as few as 200 "spam gangs".  And these gangs operate with
    the cooperation of major service providers.  My own tracking
    statistics show that China and Korea are major spam sources, with a
    single Korean provider accounting for over 10% of all spam I
    receive.  But major US broadband providers are also to blame.  Comcast
    recently had over 9 million IPs -- street numbers on the Information
    Superhighway if you will -- added to a spam list for persistantly
    failing to deal with spam and abuse on its network.  My own ISP,
    Earthlink, turns out to host at least three spam organizations,
    including two of the most notorious spam gangs, one since August,

    Not all networks are bad:AOL and MSN both emit very little spam,
    considerable for their size (and I'm generally no fan of either).
    What's necessary is for pressure -- market, legal, social, and
    technical -- to be put on those who spam, and those who facilitate
    spam, if we really plan to take this problem seriously.  The risk
    otherwise is that the killer app of the Internet will be killed.

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that spam is a hygeine issue.  Much
the same way as health epidemics in the past two years (SARS and avian
'flu) have pointed out that regions which don't address local health
problems, don't provide useful information on the state of an outbreak,
don't respond to queries about status, and don't take action to notice
of problems, are blackballed and quarantined.

As distasteful as it is to some, it appears that the response of some in
the antispam community to persistant spam sources is valid:  blacklist
spamming hosts, providers, ISPs, and ASNs.  I'm seeing little reason to
allow any traffic from Korea or China.  While spam volumes from the US
may be higher, the spam _proportion_ from these netblocks is wholly
beyond comparison.  Brazil and several African states are similarly
overwhelmed by spam.

And there are providers within the US and Canada which have atrocious
records.  Comcast has had 9 million IPs listed at L1 by SPEWS as the
cable giant has consistently failed to address spam and abuse issues
from within its networks.  The SPEWS listing reads "Poster child of how
not to run a broadband network company when it comes to dealing with


Checking on my own ISP at Spamhaus, I found that Earthlink rates three
listing, two of these for the notorious "ROKSO" (registry of known spam
operation) spammers, one active since August, 2003:


    02-Aug-2003 08:38 GMT  Paul Mentes / Palmnet.com / RxMedical

    07-Jan-2004 01:48 GMT  zombies
    europaglobal.com ; outpostdigital.net ; accesspj.net

    18-Jun-2003 20:38 GMT  Spammer verifying spam lists

This is the same ISP whose abuse manager, Mary Youngblood, states in an

    Q:  What's your ultimate goal? Is it to rid the world of spammers
    and hackers?

    A: I want my company to be synonymous for 'don't go there' for these


Earth(link) to Mary;  they're here.

More happy fun Mary quotes:


The bullshit factor's just getting a little too deep for me.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
   Rules of Spam:
   #2:  If a spammer seems to be telling the truth, see rule #1.  #3:  Spammers
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