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Business strife predicted if law closes blacklist site

  • 17 October, 2006 10:41

<p>SYDNEY, October 17. If a U.S. court carries out its threat to shut down the Spamhaus Project for ignoring a US$11.7 million judgment against it, global business efficiency will be substantially impacted by a deluge of spam, predicts Australian email security expert Peter Stewart.</p>
<p>The Spamhaus Project is a non-profit, volunteer-run organisation that compiles up-to-date blacklists of known spammers. Many of the world’s Internet service providers (ISPs) use these lists to help filter out spam from the daily flow of email.</p>
<p>Stewart says: “Spamhaus (www.spamhaus.org) claims it blocks 50 billion spam emails per day across the Internet, and that spam represents about 90 per cent of all email. If the organisation’s site is closed, it will set a precedent for the likely closure of other blacklist organisations and without their protection global business communications would be severely disrupted.”</p>
<p>He expects other blacklists would be closed gradually, with spam levels rising proportionately. Alternative filtering techniques could stop a percentage of spam – Spamhaus claims its block list can stop, on average, about 15-25 per cent of incoming spam at SMTP connection time, and over 90 per cent in message body URI checks.</p>
<p>“Blacklisting was never an efficient way of curbing spam, since far too many innocent email users are wrongly listed and find it very difficult indeed to clear their names from blacklists,” said Stewart. “Legal action against such lists was always on the cards, instigated either by legitimate email users or spammers.”</p>
<p>He said that if blacklists were closed down ISPs would likely continue to use existing blacklist information, but its effectiveness would diminish quickly as new spammers came online.</p>
<p>“The resulting flood of spam would leave business people ploughing through a host of unwanted emails for every legitimate message received, which would curtail commerce significantly,” said Stewart. “Crime would rise sharply too, as emails bearing phishing scams, spyware, keyloggers and other malware arrived unchecked in millions of in-boxes. Overall the closure of blacklists would have a dramatic effect on global business efficiency.”</p>
<p>Stewart likened the effect to police stations going on strike progressively, perhaps leaving a skeleton staff to try to cope, unsuccessfully, as the criminal element gained in strength and confidence.</p>
<p>The Spamhaus crisis results from a proposed court order dated October 6, in which a U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois calls on the organisations responsible for registering the Spamhaus.org Internet address to suspend its Internet service. This follows an earlier ruling in which Spamhaus was required to pay damages and stop listing an e-mail marketing company called E360Insight in its database of known spammers. London-based Spamhaus has ignored the judgment, claiming it cannot be enforced in the U.K.</p>
<p>Although a message on the Spamhaus web site suggests the organisation is confident that Governments would intervene before the site were closed down, Peter Stewart believes that by misplacing too much faith in spam filtering, the data security industry has left itself over-exposed to events like the closure of blacklist organisations.</p>
<p>“More than 95 per cent of anti-spam solutions rely on filtering, while the small remainder use the more promising challenge-response (blocking) technology,” says Stewart, who is Chairman of TotalBlock Pty Ltd, which created its own blocking solution.</p>
<p>Challenge-response eliminates the need for blacklists. It works by blocking ALL machine-generated unwanted email, using a challenge-response technique rather than commonly used filtering. Blocking solutions build a list of acceptable incoming email senders, using a customer’s address book as well as replying automatically to any emailers who are not on the allowed list. The reply contains a simple action that, when followed, adds the sender to the allowed list. Since this authorisation process requires human intervention, it bypasses drone machines that spew out huge volumes of spam.</p>
<p>The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), said yesterday it does not have the ability or authority to comply with a proposed court order that it suspend the Internet service of the Spamhaus Project. Both ICANN, the non-profit organisation set up to manage the domain name system of the Internet and Tucows, the Spamhaus.org registrar, are named in the U.S. District Court order.</p>
<p>About TotalBlock</p>
<p>TotalBlock - www.totalblock.net - is an Australian-developed anti-spam solution that also guards against network overloads caused by storming, harvesting and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. It works by blocking ALL machine-generated unwanted email, using a challenge-response technique rather than commonly used filtering. TotalBlock builds a list of acceptable incoming email senders, using a customer’s address book as well as replying automatically to any emailers who are not on the allowed list. The reply contains a simple action that, when followed, adds the sender to the allowed list. The action can be as simple as replying to the challenge. Since this authorisation process requires human intervention, it bypasses drone machines that spew out huge volumes of spam.</p>
<p># # #</p>
<p>For more information</p>
<p>Peter Stewart or Ben Corby
TotalBlock Pty Ltd
Tel. 61-2-9437 9800</p>

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