Your shout! On methods to deter e-mail spammers

In response to the letters on methods of reducing spam e-mails (Computer Weekly, 9 November)

Have your say at


On methods to deter e-mail spammers

In response to the letters on methods of reducing spam e-mails (Computer Weekly, 9 November)

The concept of charging for e-mails has been kicked around before.

As usual, only the honest user will be put at any disadvantage. Those using stolen identities (for example, using someone else's mail server) will avoid the costs easily.

To prevent anti-social behaviour - or crime - forget about how honest folk will behave. You have to target the perpetrator directly.

The answer to spam was in the article about a US man who faced nine years in jail for spamming (Computer Weekly, 9 November).

Of course we hope that whatever jail he is sent to does not offer internet access to the inmates.

Steve Buniak

Ralph Little's suggestion to charge for e-mail is so simple and obvious. However, I would suggest a variation that might not only stop the spam menace completely but also prove quite popular for users as well as internet service providers.

When you set up an e-mail user name, your ISP maintainsan account for you. You can set a fee which will be advertised and charged electronically to anyone who wants to send you an e-mail.

If the sender does not agree to pay the fee their e-mail will simply not be accepted by your ISP. You agree with your ISP a certain percentage that it may take from the fees accepted for e-mails received by your inbox and the remainder goes into your account and can offset the fees that your ISP will charge you.

Once you have read the e-mail, you can, at your option click on the Refund button next to the Reply button on your e-mail client's toolbar, and the fee you charged to receive the e-mail is simply re-credited to your correspondent's account at your ISP. The percentage you pay to your ISP is on the net income to your e-mail account, not on each individual transaction.

By this means, it would be possible to charge, say, a few pence per e-mail to obliterate spam, but any sensible e-mail correspondence could remain free of charge.

Any party attempting to send spam would end up with a hefty bill - part of which would end up paying for your internet/ telecoms usage. Of course, this would not happen, because the spammers would simply not send you any e-mail.

There would always be some genuine business marketing e-mail that companies might be prepared to pay for, and thus help to pay your bills.

Hedley Lester

On councils' ability to achieve compliance

In response to articles on the Freedom of Information Act (Computer Weekly, 26 October)

Recent coverage of the Freedom of Information Act has cast a much-needed spotlight on the lack of compliance preparation in local government.

However, the lack of compliance preparation actually extends beyond the Freedom of Information Act.

The e-government 2005 deadlines and specifically the need for electronic output should be a major focus for local authorities. It will change the way millions of people view statements and the way bills are paid.

It can also increase the speed at which information is delivered to citizens, which will assist Freedom of Information Act compliance.

Councils are getting varying information from central government about what they have to do to comply with the various 2005 compliance rulings. Speak to three councils and you will hear three different answers.

The government needs to specify more national projects and let councils know that they expect them to use the same system. If they do not, there will be very few local authorities fully compliant by 2005.

John Gandley, Gandlake



No shortage of skills, but no perfect matches

Your article on the skills shortage in IT (Computer Weekly, 9 November) has accepted the skills shortage myth prevalent in the industry as a whole.

There is not a skills shortage in our industry. There is merely a shortage of people with the exact match of skills demanded by even the most basic technical role. This denies access to a more general professional who can apply program-writing techniques and will have little difficulty with adapting to a different language or technical environment.

Take the case of the project manager skill requirement. I am working on a major migration project, at a fairly senior level. The stated requirement was for a project manager with experience of building and launching more than one £50m+ datacentre together with Prince2 and ITIL experience.

What the company really needed was someone who could organise and direct the myriad technical skills already in place. If the managers had stuck to the original requirement, they would still be searching for the elusive perfect candidate.

Where this problem has come from is not clear. But it is almost certainly aligned to the people setting the requirement not having the vision or experience to establish a minimally acceptable skill set and then identify suitable candidates.

Rather than wait for a mythical perfect match, look for people who can do the job. The alternative is to sit back and watch the continuing decline of the UK IT skills pool to the point where we genuinely cannot provide the staff, while thousands of experienced people are out of work.

Alan Watts, LPW Computer Services


Chip and Pin with RFID is a charter for muggers

I read with interest and amusement your article on chip and Pin/RFID cards (Computer Weekly, 9 November).

We have been told by its advocates that chip and Pin is being introduced to minimise card fraud, by replacing the easily forged signature with the secret Pin. The security of chip and Pin supposedly rests on tying a card to an authorised user via the Pin, which is only known to the legitimate card-holder.

Not so the RFID card. It will not matter to the validation system who is waving the card at the sensor. No longer will the criminal need to expend effort on forging cards. A stolen card will work as well until the theft is reported often hours later.

Should this daft idea be implemented, I foresee a massive increase in mugging and pocket-picking in the very places where speed is of the essence, where both these crimes are easiest to carry out, and the fraud is least likely to be detected.

Michael D Barwise, Computer Security Awareness

NHS e-mail system gets the message across

I would like to make the following points on the article "Delayed NHS Connect e-mail goes live with minor outages" (Computer Weekly, 2 November).

Migration to the mail service, in fact called Contact, took place over the weekend of 23-24 October and all 95,000 existing NHS mail users were successfully migrated.

This was a tremendous achievement for everyone connected to the Contact project as migrations of this nature would normally be conducted over a number of weeks.

However, the Contact programme recognised the need for business continuity and successfully transferred more than 12 million e-mails over the course of one night. More than 38,000 staff have used the service which is running comfortably at a fraction of its capacity.

Although the service was variable on its first day, the issues raised were quickly resolved and it was available to all users by the beginning of the following day.

The service provides users with all the functionality of a business standard e-mail service but with additional features unique to Contact including: a wide range of options for accessibility, such as web browser or e-mail client access via the internet or NHS network; encryption for all messages while in transit; the ability to send fax and SMS messages from e-mail; a dual-hosted, resilient service with a guarantee of no data loss; an enterprise-wide NHS directory containing more than 800,000 entries for staff and organisations; and simple lifetime e-mail addresses.

Will Moss, contact programme head, national programme for IT

Forget C#, go to Visual Basic .net instead

In your article on C# and Java (Computer Weekly, 9 November), analyst Bola Rotibi is quoted as saying, "It also depends on your skills and experiences. If you have a small development team with experience in Microsoft Visual Basic and you are targeting internet or Windows clients, then C# is the way to go".

Or you could save months of retraining and bug fixing by using Visual Basic .net. The syntactical familiarity will ease Visual Basic developers into .net development. Hopefully the architecture will have been well designed and so developers will be familiar with good practice.

There is very little you will not be able to do with Visual Basic 2005 that you could do with C# 2005.

Actually, developers should be proficient in C# and Visual Basic .net so they can handle any programming task needed.

Steve Davey, Misys Financial Systems

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment