Microsoft to Provide Antispam Technology, Foster Email Standards

At the RSA Conference 2004 Internet security conference in San Francisco yesterday,
Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates outlined his company’s
plans to work with large email partners to eliminate spam. Gates said Microsoft will
give those partners free technology that will emulate the caller ID functionality
in today’s telephone systems and prevent spammers from hiding their identities and
forwarding mail through anonymous sources. The plan, which involves backers such as
Amazon.com, Brightmail, and Sendmail and calls for a global registry of legitimate
Internet email sources, might have to compete with similar but less sophisticated
initiatives in the works at Yahoo! and AOL. Microsoft correctly notes, however, that
for the scheme to work, a large number of email providers must adopt it.

Microsoft’s antispam effort, the Coordinated Spam Reduction Initiative (CSRI), will
include numerous policies and technologies that the company will use to curb the spam
threat. Microsoft is working to establish standards that will help legitimate email
senders differentiate themselves from spammers, developing new email filters, and
working on a micropayment system that would make spam financially ineffective. “Spam
is our email customers’ number-one complaint today, and Microsoft is innovating on
many different fronts to eradicate it,”

Gates said. “We believe that Caller ID for E-Mail and the Coordinated Spam Reduction
Initiative will help change the economic model for sending spam and put spammers out
of business.”

Ryan Hamlin, general manager for Microsoft’s Anti-Spam Technology and Strategy Group,
describes caller ID as a mechanism that legitimate senders of email can use to help
ensure that spammers aren’t abusing their Internet domains. “In a nutshell, caller
ID involves two key steps,” he said. “One, senders of email publish the IP addresses
of their outgoing mail servers in DNS in an email-policy document. Two, the email
software at the receiving end of a message queries DNS for the email policy and determines
the ‘purported responsible domain’ of the message. This is done by comparing the information
in DNS to ensure it matches the information on the originating mail. We believe this
technical solution gets at the root of the spam problem by helping to confirm legitimate
senders.”

By this summer, Microsoft will roll out a beta version of Caller ID for E-Mail in
MSN Hotmail to test its effectiveness. Hotmail currently serves more than 150 million
active email users and is the most-used email service on the planet. Microsoft will
also work with partners to ensure that the system is in place on as many email ISPs
as possible and help develop a compliance program. The company is also working on
viable-identification alternatives for smaller email senders and says it will continue
to work on other antispam technologies, including challenge-response systems, machine
learning, micropayments, and safelists. [WinSuperSite]

Microsoft to Provide Antispam Technology, Foster Email Standards