Group urges governments to do more to fight spam

An economic group recommends governments work more closely together to fight spam.

Governments need to pass more antispam laws, give law enforcement agencies more resources and work better across borders to combat unsolicited e-mail clogging up inboxes, an international economic group said Wednesday.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international forum of 30 countries established to promote economic growth and trade, also called on private industry to cooperate with government spam-fighting efforts and to help governments establish nationwide spam education campaigns. In addition, countries need to pass laws that provide "clear directions" on rules regarding bulk e-mail, the group said.

"Spam is dangerous and costly for business and consumers," the OECD said in a statement. "It disrupts networks, cuts productivity, spreads viruses and is increasingly used by criminals who steal passwords to access confidential information and often bank accounts."

The OECD's report calls on countries to more readily share information during spam investigations and to routinely provide investigative assistance. Countries should also establish a single point of contact where other governments can direct their spam-fighting requests, the OECD said.

The group also recommends that governments provide training about spam and Internet security during computer courses in schools. Senior citizens should also have spam awareness training available to them, the group said.

Private companies providing Internet access to employees or customers have several obligations, the group said. Companies should establish clear e-mail use guidelines, and they should monitor the Internet for Web sites that copy their site in an attempt to steal customer data in phishing attacks, the OECD said. Companies need to educate their customers about the potential for faked e-mail messages used in phishing attacks, the group said.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) praised the OECD report, saying better international cooperation is needed to fight spam. The U.S. is among 30 OECD member nations.

The FTC has implemented many of the OECD recommendations, the agency said in a statement. The FTC has taken action against international spammers; partnered with the private sector on consumer education; and encouraged the private sector to implement domain-level authentication systems, the agency said.

OECD's antispam toolkit, including the new recommendations, is available at http://www.oecd-antispam.org/.

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