Spammers may force you to change your e-mail address once a month

Soon, you may no longer need to nag users to change their passwords every few weeks - they will have to change their e-mail...

Soon, you may no longer need to nag users to change their passwords every few weeks - they will have to change their e-mail addresses instead.

The Government's idea of giving every child an e-mail address for life will seem very old-fashioned when you need a new one every month. The problem is, of course, that once an address hits the commercial spammers' lists, you can more or less forget about using it for real mail.

My original Hotmail mailbox is a good example. The inbox receives about 200 messages a week, of which 197 are spam. A further 100 to 150 messages a week are delivered to the junk mail folder. Real mail constitutes less than 1% of the total.

Not all my e-mail addresses are that bad, and neither are yours. But they will be.

I know what I ought to do: figure out where the spam originated and complain to the ISPs whose users are abusing the Net. But I don't.

I just delete the whole lot, sigh, and get on with my life.

I know what you ought to do, too. First, invest in spam-blocking software or services to spare users the worst of the deluge. Second, make publishing "raw" e-mail addresses a punishable offence, because they are easily harvested by spambots. There are ways to cloak them.

Third, put pressure on the firms that allow spammers to operate, and the people who work for those companies. Many of the guilty parties are listed at www.spamhaus.org and similar sites.

Fourth, put pressure on politicians, few of whom have a clue about the nature and scale of the problem. (Presumably their secretaries delete all the spam before printing out letters for them to read.) Get your chief executives to write to their MPs. Remind them that an EU study published last year estimated that spam was costing Europeans c10bn a year. It will soon be costing us $100bn. And it is not going to stop until spamming and spam tools - such as address-cloaking software - are made illegal.

If you know any hackers, crackers or Perl script writers, I have a little job for them. All they have to do is write me a Trojan that will reliably bounce junk mail back to its original source and cc it to all the senior staff at the guilty ISPs plus every member of the relevant parliaments.

The spammers will not stop as long as they are immune from the consequences of their actions. It is time to make the bastards suffer.

Jack Schofield is computer editor at the Guardian

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