Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the Internet is the ever-increasing amount of unwanted e-mail, commonly known as spam. It is tempting to compare electronic mail to its paper counterpart, but there are some important differences. First, "junk-mail" is relatively self-limiting in scope because it costs real money to print and distribute even the most modest flyer. Second, advertisers in the real world are interested in targeting their audience. It makes little sense for a supermarket in Boston to advertise weekly specials on produce to consumers in Tokyo. Bulk mail—when delivered by the local postal service—is also quite carefully regulated. It is somewhat rare that you cannot locate the sender of paper-based advertising. None of these observations can be applied to spam. Sending spam is more or less "free," spammers often target "the entire world," and spammers can easily hide behind fake or transient addresses.
To date, spam has been tackled largely by applying sophisticated filtering techniques for incoming e-mail, but this does nothing to decrease the amount of actual spam sent. Anti-spam legislation has been passed in some countries, but it remains difficult—if not impossible—to pursue spammers through legal means, especially in an international context. It is therefore natural to look at technological solutions to the spam problem. If we can secure our network and authenticate its users, would it not be possible to allow only “authorized and verified” senders to send e-mail? Dave Crocker examines this problem in our first article.
Of course, no simple technical solution for spam exists, and not surprisingly there are divergent views on how the problem should be tackled. Our second article, by John Klensin, looks at spam from a different perspective and suggests some possible avenues towards a solution.
Our final article looks at routing protocol testing. Russ White examines testing mechanisms and discusses guidelines for realistic testing.
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