MS takes fight to the spammers

Moots verifiable email ID

At the RSA Conference last week, Bill Gates mapped out Microsoft's proposals for tackling spam. Of note are the company's Co-ordinated Spam Reduction Initiative (CSRI) and a technical proposal for email that's likened by many to the phone industry's caller-ID system.

CSRI includes a roadmap for policy and technology infrastructure changes that will allow the introduction of a caller ID approach that takes aim at the rampant practice of sending email with forged 'From' addresses, commonly called spoofing.

Microsoft describes CSRI as a mechanism for legitimate senders of mail to help ensure their domain name is not being abused by a spammer.

Caller ID consists of two key steps: senders of email publish the IP addresses of their outgoing mail servers in DNS in an email policy document; and the email software at the receiving end of a message queries DNS for the email policy and determines the "purported responsible domain" of the message. By comparing the information in DNS to ensure it matches the information on the originating mail it offers a way of preventing spoofing.

The proposal is currently in draft-for-comment form, posted at www.microsoft.com/spam, and the company is inviting industry-wide input and scrutiny.

The caller ID concept has been in development at Microsoft for about a year and is one of several proposals that have been considered within the industry for some time.

Caller ID will be deployed in Hotmail, and Microsoft is also working with others such as Brightmail to test the spec. It recognises that Caller ID won't cure spam on its own, but will serve as a deterrent.

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