HOME Technology 2004
DTaking out the garbage
Defending against email diarrhoea
Internet service providers (ISPs) who havenít yet added anti-spam filters to their systems risk loosing business as customers seethe with frustration at the daily dose of mass market email diarrhoea.

Spam is a pain, not only because much of the unsolicited influx is often offensive but because of time wasted sorting through the junk in search of the genuine.

New Zealandís largest ISP Xtra reports it is currently catching around 60 million spam messages a month, or about 50-60 per cent of all inbound email. During the global outbreak of the Zafi.B virus in June Xtra identified 85 per cent of incoming mail as either worms or spam.

Some outbreaks of spam or virus attacks have been significant enough to slow the delivery of email by a number of ISPs in New Zealand and overseas. While ISP filters are able to sift out 95 per cent of the rubbish itís up to the user to deal with the rest.

A paper outlining a proposed Anti-spam bill went to Cabinet in early November but because of other government priorities it is likely to be rescheduled for the New Year.

The bill takes an Ďopt iní approach for commercial messages, similar to the Australian legislation.  That means that there must be some sort of pre-existing relationship between the sender and receiver before commercial messages can be sent.

It will be up to Cabinet to decide on the exact definition of the legislation and the nature of the penalties imposed on those who persist in sending unsolicited e-mail.

Itís claimed Australian spam levels halved since the introduction of the Spam Act Ė and no wonder with penalties of up to $A44,000 a day for individuals, $220,000 a day for organisations and $1.1 million for persistent spammers.

According to Internet security firm Sophos, Australia had previously been among the top 12 spam producing countries. Locally though the flood continues to rise. Itís suggested some spammers may have moved to New Zealand or at least be using hi-jacked computers here to spread their trash.

According to Symantecís most recent spam survey the incidence of junk mail grew from 52 per cent in 2003 to 66 per cent of all incoming mail by September this year.

Symantec, which acquired Brightmail in June, scans close to 100 billion emails to obtain its research information. In September it said 24 per cent of the annoying clutter worldwide was trying to sell products, 16 per cent was adult-related material, 17 per cent related to financial offerings, health and scams totaled 8 per cent each, and fraud 6 per cent. The balance related to internet, political, spiritual and leisure.

In the Asia Pacific region the mix was similar except for the higher incidence of scams.

Meanwhile Symantec continues to increase its front line defences against spam, spyware, worms, phishing scams which harvest passwords and access information, and virus attacks

Its latest consumer and home office solutions include Norton Internet Security 2005, the latest security and privacy protection suite, which includes anti-viral, personal firewall and anti-spam technology.

The suite has worm blocking and spyware detection capabilities, as well as enhanced privacy controls and comprehensive email filtering. Users will also be able to choose to filter sexually explicit spam. Norton AntiSpam 2005 will automatically intercepting and analyse email and identify spam as it comes into the user's in-box.

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