WATPA: RE: Rising SPAM? -- Related Washington Post Article

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From: Norman J. Jacknis (norm@jacknis.com)
Date: Fri Jul 06 2001 - 20:34:58 EDT

As a follow up to your email, you might find this Washington Post article interesting.


Verizon Limits Users' E-Mail Addresses

By Mike Musgrove

In an e-mail sent to some of its Internet access subscribers last week, Verizon announced a new policy to fighting unsolicited commercial e-mail. The change has angered some customers and puzzled Internet experts, who doubt the policy change will do much to help, especially while the company has yet to close another opening to junk e-mail -- mail servers that deliver outgoing messages from anyone on the Internet.

Starting Aug. 8 -- a delay from an original deadline of July 12 -- Verizon customers who use a different domain name won't be able to send messages from that address. This group -- about 50,000 of Verizon's 950,000 dial-up and digital-subscriber-line users -- includes people who have registered their own domain names (the part of an e-mail address after the @ symbol) and users who check mail from multiple accounts and use Verizon's servers to send their replies.

"This is really an attempt to step up control of spam," said company spokesman Larry Plumb. After the switch, Verizon subscribers will be restricted to one of four approved Verizon domain names for their e-mail addresses. The company's outgoing-mail servers (called SMTP servers, short for simple mail transport protocol) will reject mail with any other domains.

The one option for affected users will be adding a "reply to" header to their messages, an alternate address that most e-mail programs will use when responding to the e-mail. The Verizon address will still appear in the message, however, which may confuse some correspondents, while many experienced users consider this procedure inelegant and clumsy.

Anything that purports to fight spam might sound fine to users who have to weed out a stack of get-rich-quick schemes from their inboxes every morning. But many Internet experts say this policy change won't accomplish much.

"A few people and I have been trying to figure out for a couple of days now why Verizon thinks this would fight spammers," said John C. Klensin, chairman of the Internet Architecture Board, which oversees technical protocols and procedures used on the Internet. "It would only prevent a very dumb spammer using very dumb tools."

Even under Verizon's new policy, spammers could still abuse Verizon's servers as much as before, said Klensin and others. The only difference would be that, like Verizon customers, spammers would be limited to typing in one of the four Verizon domain names as their return address -- the rest of the address could still be fake, as the new policy doesn't extend to verifying user IDs.

Trudy Heatherly, senior group marketing manager at Verizon, acknowledged that spammers could probably defeat this restriction but emphasized this was only one of the company's tactics to fight unwanted commercial e-mail.

Most important, Heatherly said that Verizon's "open relay" SMTP servers will all be shut down by next Thursday. Most spam is sent through these mail servers, which let anyone -- including spammers -- send messages through them. Typically, once an open relay is discovered, spammers will flood it with bulk e-mail, which can cost the company running the server money, time and goodwill among Internet users.

Almost all Internet providers use closed relays instead -- mail servers that only accept outgoing e-mail from users on that provider's own network. "That's pretty standard as a spam-fighting measure," said Bryan Kovalesky, a spokesman for EarthLink.

Jamie Yeager, a Bethesda resident who has subscribed to Verizon's DSL service for over two years and says he will be inconvenienced by Verizon's new policy, sees this measure by Verizon as a cheap way for the company to make it look as if it's doing something about the problem of spam. Yeager said he is considering switching to DSL provided by Covad Communications Corp, a competitive carrier, if Verizon implements this plan. "If [Verizon] really cared whether it worked or not, they wouldn't be doing this," he said.


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