Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Elizabeth White, Anders Wallgren, Pat Romanski, Sujoy Sen, AppDynamics Blog

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Empowering Linux Users to Reclaim Their E-mail Experience

An active, community-based approach to fighting and eliminating spam

The Linux community - nearly 29 million platform users - has been plagued for years by spam which, according to industry statistics, is dramatically on the rise. Despite relentless efforts to stop it (including billions of dollars spent to develop anti-spam solutions), spam continues to infiltrate our in-boxes every day. Not only does it cost consumers and businesses precious time, money, and resources, but it also represents a huge security risk since many spam sites infect individual computers and corporate networks with viruses or spyware.

Unfortunately, existing anti-spam solutions don't solve this grave problem, but try to hide it. These solutions are reactive and merely try to filter spam after it arrives in the user's mailbox. This passive method of defence does absolutely nothing to stop spam from coming in the first place. As a result, Internet users are losing faith in e-mail and are turning to other methods of communication for trusted sources of information - IM for personal communication and RSS for subscription-based content.

The only way to help users and enterprises to reclaim their e-mail experience is to identify and address the root cause of spam - the spam economy. Fighting spam and winning the war involves a proactive community-based approach that focuses on spammers' financial incentives, which makes removing illegitimately gathered e-mail addresses not only a concern, but a priority.

This article will address how Linux professionals and corporate IT managers, who are seriously evaluating and deploying Linux-based systems, can take a more aggressive approach to fighting spam and, ultimately, reclaim their e-mail experience.

What Motivates Spammers in the First Place?
To understand the impact and potential consequences of spam for Linux users, it's important to identify what motivates spammers to send unsolicited, bulk e-mails in the first place. We can do this by examining a typical "spam cycle."

A typical spam cycle includes the following steps:

  1. E-mail address collection: also known as harvesting - is a process in which the spammer retrieves millions of e-mail addresses that can be sent spam. The one-time cost of a mailing list with millions of addresses is typically less than $60.
  2. Spam-site creation: the spammer creates an online store in which prospective customers can place orders, following the spam-driven campaign. A specific "spamvertised" site remains online for the duration of the campaign. Designing a simple Web site can cost a few hundred dollars, and the monthly hosting fee from a spam-friendly ISP amounts to another few hundred dollars a month.
  3. The "spam run": the process in which the spammer sends out millions of e-mail messages as part of a specific campaign. Sending spam from compromised computers ("zombies"), a very common practice, incurs no costs at all.
  4. Revenue generation: with the campaign on its way, and the online store live, the spammer sits back and counts the money coming in. Assuming a 0.01% sales conversion rate on one million e-mails, a spammer's gross profit can range from $3,000 (say, a porn Web site subscription), to $10,000 (sex-related products) or even $150,000 (home refinancing) per campaign.
A Lucrative Business (For Spammers, That Is!)
Industry surveys reveal that at least 10% of the population actually buys products and services advertised via spam. In specific product categories, the percentage of people buying spamvertised products is even higher. Thus, the business case for a spam operation is clear - send out millions of messages (or ads) at a very low cost, and expect a high conversion rate of paying customers.

Although spam is certainly an appealing business (at least from the spammer's perspective), it's a great annoyance to e-mail users in general, creating immense losses in productivity costs. In the last few years, despite significant efforts to fight spam, spam volume actually increased to upwards of 75% of all e-mail traffic. Another 10% is composed of phishing expeditions (scams imitating known brands to fool users into giving their account details) and viruses aimed at creating networks of zombie computers to facilitate spam sending.

Are Filters the Answer?
Unfortunately, most anti-spam solutions that currently exist today are reactive and merely try to filter spam after it arrives in the user's mailbox. This passive method of defence may keep users from seeing that spam, but does absolutely nothing to stop it from coming.

In fact, filters have actually been known to introduce their own set of problems. Being an automatic sorting technology, filters can confuse spam and legitimate e-mails. If a spam e-mail passes through the filter (known as a false negative), the user wastes time seeing and deleting the message. If a legitimate e-mail is tagged as spam and doesn't reach the intended recipient (known as a false positive), the result is a lost business or communication opportunity. In general, filters reduce the reliability of e-mail as an effective business communication tool.

Unfortunately, filtering doesn't impact the spam economy. It just encourages spammers to innovate and invent new ways to bypass filtering schemes. Spammers are also inclined to send even more spam since they know that filters are blocking a large percentage of their insidious traffic.

Taking Action in Court
In January 2003, the U.S. government stepped forward and enacted the CAN-SPAM Act. The law defined the guidelines for sending unsolicited commercial e-mails such as including a valid return address and a working opt-out link in each message. The CAN-SPAM Act also outlawed certain practices such as address harvesting and the use of "zombies" for sending mail.

Almost three years after CAN-SPAM was passed, it has done little to stop spam, although several industry giants, such as AOL and Microsoft, have been aggressively bringing spammers to court for CAN-SPAM infringements. Legal efforts to bring spammers to court do impact the spam economy, at least for those spammers charged. However, the number of spammers brought to court has been very small. In general anti-spam laws are extremely hard to enforce because of the global nature of the Internet and spam operations.

A Proactive Community-Based Approach to Fighting Spam
Before spam, there were telemarketing calls. In response to this growing problem (and annoyance), the U.S. government created the "Do Not Call" registry, offering people a choice and some freedom - they could join the registry and stop getting telemarketing calls altogether, or they could opt-in and continue to get them. Similarly, the CAN-SPAM Act called for the creation of a national do-not-spam registry that would stop spammers from sending unsolicited e-mails to registered e-mail addresses. It was later decided that the government couldn't enforce such a registry and so it wouldn't serve the purpose.

Taking the lead on this initiative, however, Blue Security decided to create a commercial "Do Not Intrude" registry-based solution to fight spam at its source. The Do Not Intrude Registry is an active community-based approach to fighting spam offered free to consumers and small organizations. In December 2005, Blue Security even announced a Linux version of its Open Source spam-fighting software, the Blue Frog. The new offering lets Linux users participate in the Blue Community and register in the company's Do Not Intrude Registry to fight spam actively and safeguard personal and business e-mail accounts through a hands-on community approach.

The Linux version of Blue Frog was created through the contributions of Blue Community members and Linux developers and enthusiasts at large. Blue Frog's visible source program lets users and developers contribute to the development of the Blue Frog client by providing feedback and comments to the company on how to enhance the Blue Frog software and assist in adapting it to other platforms.

The introduction of the Linux version and the cooperation of the developer community are important milestones and significant steps forward for the Do Not Intrude Registry. Most vendors in the anti-spam space (especially the bigger players) don't endorse Open Source and don't supply their solutions for free, so Blue Security's solution is particularly unique and valuable to the Linux community.

Conclusion
Linux professionals and corporate IT managers have long been bombarded by spam, and the threat continues to grow despite relentless efforts and large sums of money (estimated in the billions) to stop it. Compounding the problem, spammers have become craftier, further compromising the rights of e-mail users. Even with federal legislation, the elusive nature of spammers makes enforcement nearly impossible. To combat spam head on, it is absolutely imperative that we change the spam equation. Taking a community-based approach to this perennial problem, and creating an incentive for spammers to stop sending unsolicited e-mails, is truly the only way to take in fighting spam and hopefully one day stop it dead in its tracks.

More Stories By Eran Aloni

Eran Aloni brings over 16 years of experience in security and software application technology to Blue Security. As director of marketing, he is responsible for its worldwide marketing efforts as well as its member-based community Web site. Before joining Blue, Eran was senior program manager for Microsoft's Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server Group, working closely with the company's R&D and marketing groups to develop roadmaps and strategic plans for product rollouts.

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vice president of product management, IoT solutions at GlobalSign, will teach IoT developers how t...
A critical component of any IoT project is the back-end systems that capture data from remote IoT devices and structure it in a way to answer useful questions. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle large data sets, but they are not well suited to many IoT-scale products and the need for real-time insights. At Fuze, we have developed a backend platform as part of our mobility-oriented cloud service that uses Big Data-based approache...
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT's direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Buildi...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
The demand for organizations to expand their infrastructure to multiple IT environments like the cloud, on-premise, mobile, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. As this hybrid infrastructure increases, the challenge to monitor the security of these systems increases in volume and complexity. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty, Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, will show how properly configured and managed security architecture can...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, will discuss how leveraging the Industrial Interne...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...