[IWAR] INTERNET spam flurry expected

From: 7Pillars Partners (partnersat_private)
Date: Thu Apr 02 1998 - 17:09:23 PST

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    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
     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
     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
     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." 

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