Can Uncle Sam Can Spam? I Think Not


With the indictment of alleged spam fraudster Robert Alan Soloway, the U.S. Justice Department has proved that the CAN SPAM act has some teeth. While many may cheer for this victory against spammers, the question remains, will prosecution and jail time really discourage spammers?

FRANK J. OHLHORST
Can be reached via e-mail at fohlhorst@cmp.com.

I don't think so. The reality here is that the Justice Department's victory will be a hollow one. Sure, one man will pay the price for his activities, but it is going to take a lot more than a token prosecution to stem the tide of spam. The truth is that most of the spam generated today originates from off-shore networks and is the work of those beyond the reach of the Justice Department.

Short of completely reworking how e-mail flows through the Net, the only option to fight spam is with antispam solutions, such as filtering software, services or appliances. The good news is the spam problem feeds the channel with profits from services and products; the bad news is that there is no perfect solution and VARs may still find themselves struggling with clogged inboxes and crashed mail servers.

Spam has become such a problem that people are starting to shy away from e-mail as a form of business communication. As a matter of fact, antivirus software vendor Panda Software claims that more than 90 percent of e-mail received by businesses last month was spam. That indicates a disturbing trend.

How can we solve the spam problem? Well, antispam technology is just a start nowadays. I have looked at the majority of products out there, and while some are better than others, none are perfect. Perhaps it is time to rethink how we use e-mail. I, for one, think we should switch to a system that works like caller ID, where a reliable source can validate the origin of the e-mail and if that sender is on a list of acceptable contacts, your e-mail server lets it through. If it's not on the list, then the e-mail server will send a query asking the user to fill out a small form to validate who they are.

For channel players, a new method to combat spam could spell an enormous opportunity to sell new technology, while the vendors that come up with new and better ways to control spam will be able to name their price. All things considered, everyone will win—except for the spammers, of course. Consumers, VARs and vendors will need to get together to make something happen here.

The time has come to eliminate spam and reclaim our natural right to spam-free e-mail. If you have any epiphanies on how to more effectively combat spam, drop me an e-mail (let's see if I get it!) and clue me in.

What's you solution to Spam?
You can reach Frank J. Ohlhorst,
CRN Senior Technology Analyst, via e-mail at fohlhorst@cmp.com.