Spamhaus ICANN Proposal Aims To Stop Spam In Its Tracks

The organization, staffed worldwide by volunteers, has applied for the new TLD from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It expects to hear whether the application is approved later this spring. The mechanism proposed by ICANN would keep spam from reaching e-mail servers though a complex "server-to-server" arrangement.

"Our approach is quite different," said John Reid, a Spamhaus representative in the U.S., in an interview. "It works behind the scenes, mail server to mail server. Most people won't even know it's there because it works seamlessly." Using the sponsored TLD (sTLD), users will register with The Anti-Spam Community Registry, whose Spamhaus volunteers will operate the anti-spam system.

Technically expert Spamhaus personnel will oversee the undertaking, with the receiving-server and sending-server operators representing the core community. The sending-server operator registers a name in the sTLD, and the receiving-server operator verifies the transmission by looking up domain information, including the IP address of the sender. "Using this information, the receiving server can easily determine if the sending server is spam-free, as well as determine if the e-mail was forged," the ICANN application states.

Because no e-mail messages can be observed coming from the sTLD, the main public e-mail users will have no inkling that the e-mail servers behind the scenes have stopped the offending spam.

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Reid, who is an IT consultant in California, said one motivation for proposing the system was the growing problem represented by filters stopping much "good mail" from getting through.

Reid said Spamhaus has asked developers and providers of the most popular e-mail-server software to write software for the new domain-based proposal now, because Spamhaus wants to move quickly if the ICANN application is approved.

The Anti-Spam Community Registry's board of directors would include some prominent anti-spam crusaders, such as Steve Linford, the founder of Spamhaus, and Dr. Joseph Sauver, director of User Services and Network Applications at the University of Oregon. Other proposed directors would be John Levine, chairman of the Anti-Spam Research Group of the Internet Research Task Force; Dr. Wietse Zweitze Venema, a specialist at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center; Eric Allman of mail-server-supplier; Ted Galvin of; Suresh Ramasubramanian, a spam fighter representing Asia; and Justin Mason or Daniel Quinlan of

Noting that Spamhaus already operates a worldwide network of e-mail servers set up to block spam, Reid said the organization's "spam traps" can quickly establish who spammers are and institute blocking action. Applicants to the Anti-Spam Community Registry must have a valid domain address for at least six months; applicants are also validated by postal mail and courier service. Reid said those measures should thwart most spammers.

Companies applying to register a .mail address would be charged about $2,000 annually to defray the cost of verification. Existing e-mail domains could still be used in some circumstances; for example, would become Spamhaus paid a $45,000 fee when it applied to ICANN.

*This story courtesy of