• United States
Contributing Writer

Mailbag: Is Microsoft doing enough to combat spam?

Jul 03, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalwareMicrosoft

* Frustration reigns over spam

While readers applauded Microsoft’s efforts to thwart the spam war being waged on Hotmail accounts, they were clearly nonplussed by Microsoft playing the victim.

“I am glad to hear that Microsoft is finally acknowledging that Hotmail has a spam problem,” says one reader. “I used to have an MSN account and by my estimates over 90% of the e-mail I got through that account was spam. This from an address I never gave out to anyone but close friends. I have other e-mail accounts and have nowhere near the same problem with those.”

He adds: “I suppose Microsoft is made a target by spammers but I cannot shake the thought that Microsoft could have done more than it did to reduce the deluge… Suing the spammers won’t make much of a difference since it seems to me that Microsoft could do more on their own to address the problem.”

Another reader says the targeting of spam at “public” e-mail accounts has made them lose their usefulness. “I certainly agree that the spam with the Hotmail accounts (and other large service providers) devalues the brand,” he says.  “I dropped my e-mail account with Hotmail and look with suspicion at any e-mail coming from Hotmail.  Instead, I registered my own domain and hopefully the spammers [won’t] find me.  I am extremely careful who I give my e-mail address to.”

Some readers say that while Microsoft is taking up the sword, users should do the same. “Part of the problem, just as for viruses, is our behavior as targets of spam and viruses,” a reader comments.  “The more the intended targets of spam and other forms of viruses educate themselves and lobby for sanity the less [of a negative impact] spam [will have].”

One user took it upon himself to try to educate mail server operators after he received spam that had gotten through their systems. “Someone used my e-mail address as a return address to their X-rated spam messages,” he says. “I received thousands of bounced mail messages, and every message was originated from a misconfigured mail server.”

He adds: “I sent e-mail to a dozen of these mail servers with a copy of the message (and header) to show what was being done… I also researched the responsible parties that ran the Web site being promoted and told them about the situation. I also sent a couple hundred of the bounced messages including the header information to my ISP to show that I was not responsible for sending the spam mail.”

From there, he experienced frustration with the ISP’s response. “They acknowledged that anyone could see that I was not sending the messages. They also said that there was nothing that they could do to stop this abuse. Which means that they didn’t want to notify hundreds of mail server operators that their configuration allowed anyone and anything to pass through their server as legitimate e-mail.”

The reader says that Microsoft and legislators can introduce as much antispam legislation as they want, but until e-mail server operators smarten up, spam will continue.

What do you think? Let me know at