Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog

Containers Expo Blog: Article

The War on Spam

Update from the Front Lines

The Internet is now indispensable to business at the cost of Internet abuse. Spam cascaded from an annoying trickle to a raging flood of ads, viruses, spyware, and phishing scams that pour into millions of inboxes everyday all over the world. With upwards of 80% of all e-mail traffic now spam, it's no wonder that organizations worldwide are looking for new ways to eradicate this blight. This article will discuss some of the newer developments in the "battle of the inbox."

E-Mail Authenication: SPF, Sender-ID, DomainKeys and IIM

Like traditional mail, e-mail is supposed to have a return address, often called a "bounce address," where undeliverable e-mail is returned. This address isn't always the same as the address of the author, which is called the "from address," just like in the real world where the return address on the envelope doesn't necessarily match the person who sent it.

Spammers fake these addresses since they don't want to pay for servers to handle all the undeliverable spam they send out, which can be in the millions of messages. Many times they make someone else's address the bounce address and the undeliverable e-mails are sent to some innocent bystander, a situation called a "joe job."

To add insult to injury, the bystander is usually blamed for sending the original spam. Spammers like to fake the "from" address, especially when phishing since it makes the message look more realistic to the unsuspecting.

In many ways, the e-mail system is modeled after the real world postal system. Unfortunately, just like real post offices, the return address isn't verified so spammers can fake the bounce and from addresses.

To combat the problem, several authentication schemes are being developed. The most popular ones are SPF or "Sender Permitted From," now renamed "Sender Policy Framework," (http://spf.pobox.com), Microsoft's Sender-ID (www.microsoft.com/senderid/) and Yahoo's DomainKeys (http://antispam.yahoo.com/domainkeys).

They all operate the same way: Domain name owners publish information about their domains in DNS and e-mail receivers check that information against the e-mail they get. For SPF and Sender-ID the information consists of a list of e-mail servers that are authorized to use the owner's domain in the bounce address (for SPF) or the author's address (for SID). For DomainKeys, domain owners digitally sign outgoing e-mail and publish the corresponding public keys in DNS.

The logic behind these techniques is that by having domain owners publish this information, it prevents anyone else from using their domain names without their permission. Receivers can check whether the information in incoming e-mail matches the data published by the domain owners, and can discard non-matching messages as fake.

Software support for e-mail authentication is sketchy. SPF enjoys the widest support, with implementations available for most major MTAs (http://spf.pobox.com/downloads.html).

DomainKeys implementations are also available for most major e-mail software (http://domainkeys.sourceforge.net/) but unlike SPF, most DomainKeys implementations haven't been widely tested. Support for Sender-ID is very slim; even Microsoft won't support Sender-ID in Exchange until the second half of 2005 (http://blogs.msdn.com/exchange/archive/2004/12/22/330184.aspx).

There's no support for SID in any major MTA software except Sendmail (www.sendmail.net/sid-milter/) partly because of licensing issues with Microsoft patents and the collapse of IETF's standardization efforts.

However, the biggest sticking point is not necessarily lack of software support, but lack of participants. Few domain owners publish any records. Without the participation of domain owners, software support is basically useless.

Another issue is the lack of standardization. And there's no resolution in sight because IETF's MARID working group has disintegrated.

Nevertheless, SPF boasts a following of over 200,000 domains publishing SPF records (http://spftools.infinitepenguins.net/register.php).

While both Sender-ID and DomainKeys don't have many participants, they do have some big names such as AOL and Google publishing records and testing them. But compared to the number of domains and the volume of e-mail traffic on the Internet it's insignificant.

At the same time, significant technical and legal issues surround these schemes. SPF requires major changes in mailing lists and only protects the "bounce address," which is pretty thin. Questions have been raised about possible fatal flaws in Sender-ID's key algorithm. Sender-ID's license and patents have legal problems. Forwarding and mailing lists have to be reconfigured or changed. There's insufficient real-world testing and it's unclear these schemes can stand up outside the lab.

Nevertheless, the implementations that are dribbling out are letting organizations experiment. As field test data increases, it's hoped the flaws and technical problems can be resolved, though no technology is mature enough to be deployed in a production environment without pausing over the potential legal and technical issues. Since the protocols may be tweaked and changed many times before a final standard is set, managers must proceed with caution before spending valuable resources. While organizations may seek to protect themselves and rush to deploy these solutions, they must realize that e-mail authentication is only one step in a larger attack on spam.

More Stories By Yakov Shafranovich

VP of a business software startup, former co-chair of Anti-Spam Research Group (ASRG)

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The platform combines the strengths of Singtel's extensive, intelligent network capabilities with Microsoft's cloud expertise to create a unique solution that sets new standards for IoT applications," said Mr Diomedes Kastanis, Head of IoT at Singtel. "Our solution provides speed, transparency and flexibility, paving the way for a more pervasive use of IoT to accelerate enterprises' digitalisation efforts. AI-powered intelligent connectivity over Microsoft Azure will be the fastest connected pat...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Druva is the global leader in Cloud Data Protection and Management, delivering the industry's first data management-as-a-service solution that aggregates data from endpoints, servers and cloud applications and leverages the public cloud to offer a single pane of glass to enable data protection, governance and intelligence-dramatically increasing the availability and visibility of business critical information, while reducing the risk, cost and complexity of managing and protecting it. Druva's...
BMC has unmatched experience in IT management, supporting 92 of the Forbes Global 100, and earning recognition as an ITSM Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years running. Our solutions offer speed, agility, and efficiency to tackle business challenges in the areas of service management, automation, operations, and the mainframe.
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, compared the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, examin...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
DSR is a supplier of project management, consultancy services and IT solutions that increase effectiveness of a company's operations in the production sector. The company combines in-depth knowledge of international companies with expert knowledge utilising IT tools that support manufacturing and distribution processes. DSR ensures optimization and integration of internal processes which is necessary for companies to grow rapidly. The rapid growth is possible thanks, to specialized services an...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...