International antispam experts meet in the Netherlands to discuss ways of combating spam
The first European spam symposium (EU Spam Symposium 2006) was held in Maastricht, Netherlands on June 14, 2006. Participants included antispam experts from across the globe, including the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and the US, with Russian antispam experts from Kaspersky Lab in attendance.
The EU Spam Symposium was the first European symposium devoted entirely to the issue of spam, and was supported by CEPIS (The Council of European Professional Informatic Societies), an organization uniting 32 European states. Organizers of the event included the University of Maastricht and Spam Experts (Netherlands), a company specializing in antispam consulting and the implementation of antispam solutions developed in-house.
Both the organizers and participants of the symposium agreed that spam concerns Internet users in all countries, and is becoming more problematic each year. Participants discussed a variety of spam-related issues, from legal matters to the technical details surrounding spam analysis.
John Graham-Cumming, the author of the personal antispam module POPfile and one of the founders of Electric Cloud, a developer of build management software, delivered a presentation on spammer tricks in the HTML part of email messages.
Cristina Bueti, a representative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), emphasized the need to further develop legislation regulating advertising on the Internet, as well as the need for the antispam community to consolidate – from maintaining common lists of spammer techniques and tricks to exchanging expert views and analysis.
Among the participants and presenters of the conference was a person referred to as Spammer-X (i.e., an ex-spammer), who was invited by the conference organizers. He gave a detailed presentation on the way spammer gangs work, including among other things their budgets and profits, using "pharmaceutical" spam (the sale of Viagra and other potency drugs) as an example. The "Ex-spammer" evaluated the income of a four-person spam gang from a mailing to 40 million recipients at $7,690 and stressed that the profits are not evenly distributed – that is, the “boss” earns more than other members.
Nearly all presenters emphasized that spam remains one of the most effective ways of promoting goods. Therefore, as long as users respond to spam messages and as long as there is a market for spam, spam itself will continue to exist, and neither legal nor technical methods will be able to eradicate it.
Nevertheless, technology can help to drastically reduce the amount of spam. At the same time, all participants agreed that spam should be a concern for system administrators and ISPs rather than end users alone. This means that spam should be filtered at a higher level.
Experts from various countries shared their spam fighting experience, which proved both interesting and useful. For instance, some experts do not stop at filtering spam messages but try to unmask the spammers as well, identifying unique characteristics of spam mailings, searching for individual spammers, etc.
Judging by the number of questions that Kaspersky Lab experts were asked concerning the technical and legal aspects of combating spam in Russia, this issue is of great interest to experts from other countries.
According to Anna Vlasova, Head of the Kaspersky Lab Antispam Lab, the first antispam symposium was a success. “The exchange of information and opinions was helpful and interesting for all participants. The closer the cooperation between antispam experts from different countries, the less chance spammers will have.”
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