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Govt backs global fight against spam

Daniel Thomas

The UK is among 26 countries that have signed up to a global initiative designed to combat spam, which now accounts for more than half of all e-mail traffic and costs global businesses an estimated £6bn in lost productivity every year.

The move follows widespread criticism that legislative bodies in different regions were hampering the fight against spam by following different interpretations of legislation.

Last week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said, "Spam is not the problem of any single country - it is a worldwide problem. It is increasingly clear that domestic efforts must be supplemented by internationally co-ordinated strategies to address the cross-border challenges posed by spam."

The "Secure your server" initiative, led by the US Federal Trade Commission, will guide ISPs on how to secure their servers to prevent them automatically forwarding spam.

According to the FTC, the problem for servers lies in so called "open relays" which were instrumental in the growth of the internet in the early days, but have, increasingly, been abused by spammers who use them to disguise the origin of their messages.

A significant amount of spam is generated through the use of so-called "open proxies" - web-linked machines that can be abused to allow unauthorised internet users to connect to other hosts on the Internet and so proliferate the spread of spam e-mail.

UK communications minister Stephen Timms welcomed the initiative, which is backed by 26 nations including Korea, Japan, Brazil, Argentina and Taiwan.

"Spam is an international problem and we can't eliminate it on our own, it demands international co-operation," he said.

"Secure your server is an excellent example of international partnership tackling the global nuisance of spam, and the UK played a key role in helping deliver this initiative."

The European Union is also taking steps to toughen up its anti-spam legislation, which has been branded "toothless".

Last month, the EU published a communication calling for tougher sanctions against spammers. Examples include providing authorities with the required investigation and enforcement powers to trace and prosecute spammers with financial and criminal sanctions and adapting marketing practices to the "opt-in" regime in its correct sense. Existing UK rules refer to prior consent, which is not the same thing.


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