US aims to plug global spam holes

Shutting open relays

The US Federal Trade Commission has announced an international initiative to fight spam, which will focus on closing off the unsecured servers used by spammers.

The FTC is to work with 36 different agencies in 26 countries on its new programme, entitled Operation Secure Your Server. The initiative is designed to coordinate an international effort to reduce the flow of unsolicited commercial email by urging organisations to close open relays and open proxies, which are often used by spammers to send unsolicited email.

Participating agencies have identified tens of thousands of owners or operators of potentially open relay or open proxy servers around the world; the agencies are sending letters urging the owners and operators to protect themselves from unwittingly relaying spam.

Open relays and open proxies are servers that allow any computer in the world to route email through servers of other organisations, thereby disguising its real origin. The FTC said that these abuses not only overload servers, but also could damage an unwitting firm's reputation if it appears that the business sent the spam.

"International cooperation is going to play an important role in combating spam, as this project clearly demonstrates. Moreover, government cannot solve the spam problem on its own; everyone with an Internet connection must do their part to make sure that they are part of the solution and not part of the problem," said Howard Beales, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

"Any move to reduce the flow of spam is to be welcomed. We're happy that the FTC is now taking a line that looks at the international situation, rather than focussing solely on US citizens," said a spokesperson for the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. The spokesperson said that a European Commission delegation is due to meet the FTC on Wednesday and further news on cooperation may emerge after the meeting.

Agencies in Albania, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Hungary, Jamaica, Japan, Lithuania, Norway, Panama, Peru, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom are sponsoring the initiative along with the FTC.

The FTC has also created a Web page http://www.ftc.gov/secureyourserver that contains information for businesses on how to protect themselves from becoming unwitting distributors of spam.

© ENN

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