Usenet Spam Forecast: "Horrific" by James Glave 4:12pm 2.Apr.98.PST Usenet news servers across the Internet are about to creak, groan, and, in many cases, crash and burn under what may be the most colossal flood of garish advertisements ever, say anti-spam activists. As of Friday, a group of about 40 such Usenet activists will begin a "Usenet Spam Cancel Moratorium" and abruptly stop what they have been quietly doing for years -- issuing cancel messages. The moratorium is intended to send a wake-up call to Internet service providers (ISPs) that don't do their part to combat spam. "There are going to be servers crashing and a lot of users pissed off because they will be getting flooded with spam," predicted Chris Lewis, a Canadian computer security consultant and a veteran spam canceler, who called the moratorium. David Wilson, marketing vice president at Deja News, says his service, which does its own spam filtering, won't be damaged by the effort. "What this is going to do is punish the people out in Usenet who have not been working toward keeping [Usenet] clean, and it will reward the people who have made efforts," he said. "It's going to be horrific," said Wilson. Spam messages and the cancel messages designed to erase them constitute as much as 80 percent of all ASCII traversing Usenet, according to Lewis. At his peak, Lewis said he nuked 250,000 offending messages monthly. "For an indefinite period after [Friday], no spam cancels should be issued," read the notice posted on 31 March to Usenet groups and mailing lists. "This includes 'classic spam,' 'broken gateway spews,' 'newsgroup bombing,' ... third party forgery cancellations, in the big 8, other global top-level hierarchies such as alt.*, and regional hierarchies," the notice continued, encompassing essentially all types of Usenet spam. "On some systems, no one will notice, and others will blow up completely," said Lewis. Administrators overseeing those servers in the latter category, which are likely to be mid-sized ISPs, may not even see the tsunami coming. This is because, said Lewis, they have blithely relied on his efforts and those of other volunteers to keep their "upstream" news feeds clean. Lewis uses an automated spam canceling tool called NoCeM (pronounced "no-see-um"), a broadcasted list of messages identified as spam by a trusted source. Across the Net, many news systems are configured to intercept NoCeMs, compare the contents with posts stored on their news server, and flush any spams that match. But many news servers simply ignore NoCeMs and other canceling message schemes. It is the administrators in those locations that tomorrow's action will affect the most, because the total number of spams in Usenet will rise. Lewis said that the moratorium will send complacent ISPs the message that they need to consider Usenet spam a serious problem, and implement some of the many publicly available anti-spam tools, including the Spam Hippo, Cyclone, and Cleanfeed. "We are hoping to get the ISPs to be more proactive, both to clean up their act in terms of the stuff their own users generate, as well as to stop relying on us," said Lewis. "It's forced evolution." An executive at Netcom Online said his service was unlikely to feel Friday's flood, because of the numerous anti-spam filters the company put in place following a Usenet news boycott against them in February by anti-spam activist Paul Vixie. "We don't expect this to have much of an impact," said Gene Shimshock, Netcom's vice-president of marketing. "We put in some of the exact filters that were listed in the [Usenet Spam Cancel Moratorium] warning," Shimshock said. Similarly, DejaNews, which bills itself as the leading source for discussion forums on the World Wide Web, says it will emerge largely unscathed. "It won't hit us, it will hit other people," Wilson said. In December 1997, DejaNews launched an aggressive anti-spam program by supporting NoCeM, and installing a variety of public tools and proprietary artificial-intelligence-based filters. Lewis will continue to generate NoCeM notices, because the companies who use them are not his targets, but virtually all other canceling will cease. "You are going to see news spools melt down - it is going to be the smaller guys, the news spools running at 95 percent of capacity," said John Mozena, co-founder and vice president of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email. "Obviously it's not a malicious thing," said Mozena, "but it's kind of a wake-up call that we can't keep going on like this ad infinitum."
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Apr 13 2001 - 13:06:51 PDT