Feeds

Confusion reigns after FTC spam summit

Holding pattern

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Remote control for virtualized desktops

A key conference on the use of email authentication to fight spam concluded in Washington last week without any clear conclusions on which approach will gain market acceptance.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Email Authentication Summit took place on Tuesday and Wednesday last week and coincided with an Internet Engineering Task Force Meeting, also in Washington. During the FTC’s summit various proposals for email authentication were outlined.

Sender Policy Framework and Sender ID are both designed to verify the domain from which email has been sent and therefore minimise spoofing. Both involve checking the IP address of a server originating email against a list of servers a domain owner allows to send email. Sender ID is Microsoft's approach to spam-busting protocols, which dropped the idea of embedding XML in DNS records from its earlier Caller ID proposal.

Microsoft's restrictions on sublicensing Sender ID led the IETF to rebuff the proposal last month. However many anti-spam firms are supporting the technology, so Sender ID is sill important to the market - despite the reservation of the net's technical governing body. "There's been a lot of infighting in the IETF between SPF and Microsoft supporters," said Matt Sergeant, senior anti-spam technologist at email filtering firm MessageLabs. "Open source advocates, and others, don't want to see Bill Gates becoming the 800lb gorilla that controls the technology for blocking junk mail."

Other proposals discussed last week incorporate the use of digital signature technology. DomainKeys involves the use of digital signatures in email messages. These digital signatures allow recipients of email to verify that messages were sent from the claimed email address and to verify that messages have not been tampered with. Yahoo!, which developed the technology, began using the technique within its email service yesterday.

Another approach to fighting spam and phishing using cryptographic techniques comes via Cisco's Identified Internet Mail technology. Cisco, supported by other vendors and end users, reckon path-based and signature-based approaches in the fight against spam are complementary but the many different proposals under discussion all contribute to a somewhat confusing picture.

Emerging identity standards, including DomainKeys, Sender ID and SPF, are welcome additions to the arsenal of weapons in the fight against spam, but they are not a "silver bullet", anti-spam firm Habeas says. From next year on businesses that want to get their email reliably delivered will need to adopt these standards as part of their email practices, it says. But which approach should users embrace?

It is unclear which of the many proposals for email authentication will become dominant. The FTC Summit had done little to clarify this, MessageLabs' Sergeant notes. "At the moment the industry is in a holding pattern. Email authentication is a large undertaking, still at the experimental stage, and I reckon it'll be at least six months before a clear direction emerges. It could be that Sender ID and SPF will split into two rival camps," he said. ®

Related stories

US giants move to can spammers
MS anti-spam proposal returned to sender
Spammers embrace email authentication
Sender authentication is coming

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.