July 11, 2007

Spam Summit 2007

I spoke this morning on a panel at the Federal Trade Commission’s Spam Summit in Washington, DC. My essential point, based on our most recent spam survey report, was that spam has made many people less trusting of email.

Thomas X. Grasso, a special agent of the FBI who works at the National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance, said that spam is much more than just bulk email. One of his main concerns is botnets, compromised personal computers that are used in all kinds of attacks without the owners knowledge. The typical citizen response to discovering that their computer is part of a nefarious network: “I thought it was running slow recently.” If you want to check on your computers security, he recommends visiting myNetWatchman and running a SecCheck (on the Resources page).

Trevor Hughes of the Email Sender & Provider Coalition said that the difference between legit email marketers and spammers is trust, which is built on competence and consistency. Their research shows that consumers are “tyrannical” about editing their inbox and would appreciate having more tools to report and categorize spam.

Scott Richter of Media Breakaway wants a time limit on email suppression lists since, he says, most people move on from email addresses after a few years and forget what they have signed up for in the past, limiting marketers’ ability to reach them.

Charles Stiles, AOL’s postmaster and chairman of the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, had the last word: “Bulk is still a four-letter word.”