Spam plans may fail on legal front

Antispam legislation expected to be introduced in Australia next year will do little to assist IT managers in coping with a burgeoning problem that threatens legal liability for companies who fail to protect users from unsuitable content.

Hot on the heels of a federal government report proposing antispam legislation to combat unsolicited bulk e-mail, Meta Group analyst for content and collaboration strategies John Brand has warned IT managers not to rely on regulation to reduce the impact of spam.

He said organisations must establish policies, processes and filtering technologies to reduce user frustration and potential legal liability for failing to protect users from offensive material.

"Australia's attempts at introducing legislation fails to recognise that offshore prosecution is difficult at best; penalties are likely to be an ineffective deterrent and the interpretation of 'unsolicited' communications will open the door to ambiguous legal precedents," Brand said.

"Legislation will force IT organisations to increase spending on the cleansing of incoming messaging until spam can be charged on a sender basis, which is unlikely. Filtering technology remains the only viable solution.

"False-positive identification of spam can be minimised with end-user quarantine digests, but will continue to generate overheads that require additional resources for e-mail and message management."

Phillips Fox information services director Shane Martin agrees legislation will do little to impact on a problem that is ultimately shouldered by IT managers.

Martin has just completed an end user education campaign at his organisation and also uses filtering software.

He said all e-mail addresses were changed 18 months ago and the old addresses were recently disabled which has reduced spam considerably.

Earlier this week the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sent letters to ISPs worldwide as part of a joint campaign with global law enforcement agencies.

ACCC acting chairman Sitesh Bhojani said spammers use open communications ports to send huge volumes of “distasteful, perverse material”.

"In the first action in Australia since the issuing of spam recommendations to government, law enforcement officers have identified 1000 open ports across the world that can be used as relays for sending spam," Bhojani said.

"The operators of these ports have been sent letters from enforcement agencies asking them to close them down, reducing the opportunities for spammers."

Spam is estimated to make up about 20 per cent of e-mails in Australia; it topped one billion messages last year -- more than double that of the previous year.

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