UUNet's spam problem points to larger issues

www.infoworld.com |  Software

BOSTON -- RICHARD Nace gets ornery when he's called a spammer. Nace, president and CEO of @SyberSchool, promotes his Web site, SyberSchool.net with e-mail.

"My friends, are you running into brick walls with your job?" his e-mail asks. "Have you considered a job change lately? If so read on ..."

Most people don't read on, said Nace. Most people figure his bulk, unsolicited, commercial e-mail is spam and delete it.

The issue is more complex, however, for those people hoping to get SyberSchool.net kicked off its network connection with a complaint to the e-mail abuse center for UUNet Technologies. UUNet's no-spam policy appears hard to enforce consistently and successfully. Other ISPs also have difficulty policing their own spam policies, eventually passing costs on to businesses and consumers.

UUNet, WorldCom's subsidiary for Internet services, explicitly prohibits bulk e-mailing in its acceptable use policy. "Sending unsolicited mail messages, including, without limitation, commercial advertising and informational announcements, is explicitly prohibited," according to the policy as written on UUNet's Web site.

But actual enforcement of the acceptable use policy -- potentially, an account termination -- requires review by UUNet's Internet abuse investigations department and its legal department, and notice must be given to the sales department as well, said Mike Whitman, UUNet's director of customer security. Whitman said it could take two to four weeks to shut off a spammer's digital tap, and it could take longer. "Last month, we got over 250,000 complaints," he said. "We're taking action against 50 to 100 customers a month."

UUNet ranks at the top of the chart for abuse reports logged at SpamCop.net, an e-mail filtering and automatic abuse report filing service. According to statistics kept on the site, SpamCop logged 36,657 abuse complaints against UUNet for customers sending spam in the week ending Dec. 5, while the next most reported ISP, Core.com, earned 4,784 complaints.

"UUNet has been the number one or number two source of spam for at least a year now," said Julian Haight, owner and administrator of SpamCop. "I figure most of the problem comes from their dial-up service." Spammers will subscribe to a dial-up service expecting to be booted off within a few hours or days. Then they simply sign up again after service is terminated, he said.

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