Spam is a problem that must be solved by both internet users and the internet community in general. There are several sets of people which must participate in creating long and short term solutions to the spam problem.
- Computer Users – Users must educate themselves in methods to stop spam.
- Webmasters – Webmasters should follow practices designed to discourage spammers.
- Internet design engineers and internet regulating agencies – These agencies and engineers are responsible for the design and implementation of the protocols which govern the internet.
Short Term Solutions
Short term solutions are not ideal but include:
- Using a product to place spam in a folder on the side as a help to manage spam. – An advantage to this solution lies in the fact that it is fairly inexpensive and allows spam to be managed more effectively thus saving time for the user. The disadvantage to this solution is that the spam is still being received, costing the organization bandwidth and mail server processing power.
- Using a product to block spam before it can get to your mail server. – The advantage to this solution is that it can stop a majority of spam before it even reaches the server.
- Educating users to keep their email address confidential. – This solution is still a helpful solution, but is no longer 100% effective. Spammers use all kinds of techniques that are both legal and illegal to harvest email addresses. These may even include sniffing email traffic on the internet and pulling sender and recipient email addresses from the traffic that they have evesdropped on. Other methods used to obtain email addresses include writing viruses that download the address book of infected computers. In the long run, even if you protect your email address, you will eventually begin to receive spam. In addition, it has become very difficult to tell who you can trust with your email address.
- Educating users to be wary about opening email attachments. – This solution is only a partial solution but is an important security measure which can help prevent you from getting viruses. Computer users should always know what type of file is being received and whether it was really sent by the person who appears to have sent it before they open the attachments. It is now a common practice for network administrators to block emails that have attachments that can be executed.
- Subscribing to a spam filtering service – The advantage of this solution is that a majority of spam will not get to your network, servers, or users and still allows users to have control over settings. The disadvantage is the monthly cost.
These solutions are only stopgap measures and each one has some drawbacks and many are not completely effective. Listing of products that help limit or filter spam can be found at Spam Prevention Tools Products and Spam Management Tools Products.
Long Term Solutions
Long term spam solutions include a redesign of the email system. Emails should be digitally signed so that the receiver can verify who the sender is. This way spammers cannot deny sending spam and will be caught. This solution depends on internet agencies and engineers re-engineering mail protocols or actually a new mail protocol which would phase the current protocol out. However mail servers would need to be redesigned and this solution would take several years to implement.
One attempt of for a solution today is to verify that any sending server can be checked to be sure the internet address of the server matches the server name according to the internet domain name records. Although this solution may eliminate some spam, it will also eliminate good email such as mail generated automatically by programs operating on internet sites which is designed to notify users of events that they may be interested in.
Paying for each e-mail sent – This solution will not work because it forces people to pay for services that they have already paid for. Additionally it will not prevent spammers from using poorly configured servers to send spam illegally. It will most likely force victims (those who get viruses and administrators who inadvertently allow spammers to illegally relay mail through their mail servers) to pay for the additional e-mail. On the brighter side, it may force more administrators to lock their systems down better and force computer users to be more careful about getting viruses. If this were done, I would think it would make the most sense to allow a limited amount of email to be sent on a monthly basis for free.