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IETF creates antispam research group

By Todd R. Weiss
February 28, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As spam problems worsen for businesses and consumers, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is going on the offensive by creating a panel called the Anti-Spam Research Group (ASRG) to look for new ways to beat back unwanted e-mail.
The IETF, the main standards body for the Internet, has created the ASRG under its research wing, the Internet Research Task Force, which explores various issues for the IETF and seeks answers to Internet-related problems.
The chairman of the new research task force, Paul Judge, director of research and development at Alpharetta, Ga.-based antispam vendor CipherTrust Inc., said he came up with the idea because spam is rapidly worsening. "The problem of spam has tremendously altered the way we use the Internet," he said. "It's now common to see organizations and enterprises in which half of all e-mail traffic is spam."
Many of today's commercial antispam products deal with the problem locally on a server or PC by filtering e-mail and trying to sort it into wanted messages and spam. "But that really doesn't solve the problem globally, because all those messages are still traveling the Internet, hogging bandwidth" and wasting resources, Judge said.
What the new group plans to do is re-examine the problem and existing solutions in an effort to find new spam controls. Some fixes may not involve much more than tweaking existing protocols or technologies in new ways. "People really haven't taken a research approach or view of the spam problem," Judge said. "There's a large audience seeking solutions to this problem."
He cited Internet service providers, businesses and mail system vendors as all having a vested interest in devising new solutions. One idea, he said, would be to devise antispam tools that could communicate consent or a denial for an incoming e-mail before it even reaches a corporate firewall or user's mailbox.
"We're not looking for a buy-in from the spammers," he said."We're looking for an infrastructure that will give protection to the users."
Judge said he hopes to have some answers by the end of the year. Although the research group won't actually create new Internet-related standards, its work can be used by the IETF to do so later on.
Analysts called the move good news, but were mixed on whether it will succeed. Eric Hemmendinger, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, called the decision "a small milestone" but added "let's not overrate it."
"It's conceivable that some technical innovations will come up," he said. But that will depend on whether they can be implemented by vendors or will make sense to

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