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04:42 AM

Readers Get Creative About Stamping Out Spam

In his Dec. 6 column, Business Technology: Ends Don't Justify Means, Despite Appeal, Bob Evans asked readers what we should do about spam; the person with the best idea will receive a complimentary registration to our Spring Conference in Amelia Island, Fla., April 10-13.

Here are the responses.

Spam Fee


What to do, what to do... I don't really know enough about the inner workings of the mail servers, connections, etc., of the Internet, but somewhere, there have to be mail servers that accept all of these messages from spammers and put them out across the Net. Why can't these servers charge them for it? Now, I know that in many cases these sorry excuses for people have taken over the PCs of the innocent and turned them into spamming crazies, but even for those, somewhere there is a mail server that accepts the mail and sends it on across the waves of electrons. Can they not count these things? Sure it's wasted overhead, but if the spam becomes 95% of the E-mail out there, what do you call that other than wasted overhead? Lots o' companies are attempting to make more than just a couple of bucks off of Internet access; why can't they control what is sent (at least in terms of volume)? The answer is they can. They just don't want to. It's not their problem. Not yet, anyway, until such time as the spam causes them to spend more money to handle it. For every connection, someone, somewhere is providing that access, a DSL line, a cable modem, a telephone line, a T1, whatever. And making money off of it. Why can we not hold those people responsible for regulating traffic? Make the spammers pay, not jail time, in dollars. Make it so that they can't make ends meet and they will disappear.

We wonder the same thing about how to get rid of junk mail in our real mailbox. There's no question about how to do that. The post office could charge them a first-class rate for every item. No more bulk-rate stuff. It would stop in a heartbeat. How much junk mail do you get delivered by UPS? None. It's too expensive. The U.S. Postal Service could do the same thing, but it doesn't want to. It wants the revenue flow of the direct-mail businesses.

So, my idea is simple in theory. Make it too expensive for the spammers to do their thing. They will quit. How to make that happen in practice? Well, that's why they pay you guys the big bucks...

Daylon Cranford

Charge For E-Mail

My Dear Sir,

Thank you for another excellent column:

I can tell you how to solve both the problem of spammers and hackers, but no one ever likes my solutions.

How to stop spam: Simply charge for E-mail. Right now it's a free service; I can send 10,000 of these messages, or 10,000,000 or just one for the same price. Charge 1 cent per E-mail, and spam will evaporate.

People never like this idea. It's a tax on the Internet. It will add costs to businesses. That's baloney. Right now I pay AOL $23.90 a month for Internet service. If I send 10 E-mails a day, 300 a month, and AOL charged me $20.90 for access to the system and 1 cent per E-mail, my bill would be exactly the same. That's how my phone service works. What's costing businesses money is the cost of dealing with spam, and quite honestly, most of the non-spam E-mails I get never needed to be sent anyway. Business productivity would increase if employees were more judicious in their use of E-mail.

How to stop hackers: don't try, let them hack away! The solution is to remove from the Internet all critical information. The computer I am using to message to you has no critical files in it: I keep proprietary information on my system which IS NOT CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET. Simple, huh!

Does anyone remember TELNET? (Remember the Mathew Broderick movie, WarGames? That movie predates the Internet. He hacked into the Air Force computer via telephone, and of course was caught almost immediately when the phone call was traced back to him.) Back in those days, I actually sent files through the phone using my old TRS 80 RadioShack computer. Private networks can be used to send proprietary files through the telephone lines. There is no need to have critical information connected to 600 million computers via the Internet simply so 100 or so people can share data. Frankly, it's silly. Even if 599,990,000 of those computer users are honest, decent people, you're exposing your critical information to 10,000 crooks for absolutely no reason. With a private network, we can quickly trace unauthorized access via the telephone number the call was made from. With toll-free numbers, the cost would be as low or less than Internet access.

But no one likes that solution to hackers. For some reason, EVERYTHING HAS TO BE CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET to prove that we have the latest, greatest, most up-to-datest technology. Private networks are so 1980s.

So, instead of using proven technology that will improve security by several orders of magnitude, we look for technological solutions that will secure our systems connected to the Internet--some fabulous software or hardware (firewall).

The truth is, we have to take responsibility for our proprietary information. A limo company would fire a driver who left a limo on the street with the doors unlocked, the key in the ignition, and the engine running. Network administrators who take proprietary or critical information and systems and then connect them via the Internet to hundreds of millions of unknown users are doing basically the same thing. The solution is simple: Just take it off the World Wide Web. It doesn't need to be there. Use the Web like I do: Set up a "billboard" Web site with your company and contact information so people can find you and do business. Use it to send noncritical files to strangers, like this one.

The problem isn't technological; the problem is devising processes and procedures for our enterprises that reflect the reality of the world we live in, and stop trying to make the world fit into our business models.

Very Best Regards,
John Lepant

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