Stop Business Junk Email

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Junk email on all channels--for both home and business users--has, as we all know, reached crisis proportions. The figures from the last quarter of 2004, for example, run from about 75 to 82 percent. That is, one in every 12 emails is spam. One question in the face of such numbers is whether email as a viable form of corporate communications has any long-term potential.

The concern is understandable. At the same time, it seems equivalent to someone in the High Middle Ages suggesting that Gutenberg's printing press was a marvelous innovation but not practicable in the long term because anything could be printed. The question about unsolicited email has two answers. One is based in law, the other in technology. For businesses, both are important.

Countering Spam

On the legal front, an election day article in the Washington Post, and the story's conclusion, is heartening. The accused, three North Carolina residents, were on trial in Virginia for violating that state's anti-spam law. They each faced up to 15 years in prison and $2,500 in fines if convicted. The charges were that they masked their identities when sending tens of thousands of fraudulent advertisements to Aol subscribers. The three felony counts--falsifying return addresses, bulk unsolicited advertising, and fraudulent offers--are federal. Two were convicted--one to nine years and the other to a fine of $7,500.

On the technology front, stopping junk email in a network environment means having both hardware and software firewalls and spam and anti-virus filtering in place. On the one hand, both incoming and outgoing traffic must be monitored. On the other, corporate data needs to be kept secure. Corporate email listings are especially at risk, and are in fact the prime target of many hackers: about 30 percent of most email server capacity is attributed to directory harvesting attacks, or DHA.

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