• United States

Spammers ignore FTC rules

Jun 22, 20042 mins
MalwareMessaging AppsNetworking

* E-mail security vendor says spammers not complying with FTC rules

Montreal-based e-mail security vendor Vircom recently said it has seen less than 15% of sexually oriented e-mail complying with a Federal Trade Commission rule that all such messages contain a warning label in the subject line.

The FTC rule went into effect May 19. In addition to the label requirement, any sexually oriented material must be excluded from the subject heading and must not be initially viewable when the message is opened.

Vircom’s SpamBuster team said it saw more than 300,000 pornographic e-mail messages over a two-week period that should have been labeled under the new rule, and only 15% of them were.

It’s not surprising that spammers are failing to comply with the new rule, since the required label might impede the message getting through.

Anti-spam activists severely criticize the majority of anti-spam measures proposed or passed by Congress, and even the concept of using laws as a defense against spam, on the following grounds:

* The very definition of spam remains ambiguous.

* Most bills would explicitly supersede more severe state anti-spam laws, reducing pressure on spammers.

* Many of the laws preclude civil litigation for damages against spammers.

* Most of the laws are based on opting out of spam, allowing potentially huge numbers of unwanted e-mail messages to be sent to victims.

* The laws would essentially legalize spam and place the burden of stopping it on the recipients.

* Offshore spammers would be unaffected by any legislation.

* Litigation against criminal spammers using false identification would remain difficult. 

At a fundamental level, we are suffering from spam for several underlying reasons:

1) Sending e-mail, even millions of unwanted messages, is free or almost free.

2) The current architecture of the Internet, based on IPv4, has no facility for forcing packet authentication, so most spammers can spoof headers with impunity and remain immune from identification and prosecution in the real world.

3) Enough people respond to commercial spam to maintain its profitability.

Until some or all of these underlying issues change, all the laws in the world will have about as much effect on spam as anti-drug laws have had on illicit drugs.