Spam And The Future

First email, then biotech? Are our technologies hostage to the few?

Good piece from the MIT Technology Review on spam.

Apart from the stuff we know — that hackers have created computer worms and viruses that break into computers and then turn those compromised machines into launching pads for spam — there are some other interesting observations, including how hackers have taken to “manipulating the fabric of the Internet’s routing system”.

The article quotes Geoff Hulten from Microsoft’s anti-spam technology and strategy group said that “much of the spam that Hotmail receives comes from China and Japan—in fact, those countries are now the second and third largest senders of spam. The United States is still Number 1, of course, but our Asian cohorts are moving up fast. What’s particularly troubling is that while spam from the United States runs roughly 50/50 with legitimate e-mail, spam from Asia outweighs legitimate e-mail by nearly 10-to-1.”

The article looks at how the efforts of big email providers, like Yahoo! and Microsoft, to create next generation anti-spam tools “could also help the large providers maintain and even solidify their market dominance, by making it increasingly difficult for small businesses to operate their own e-mail systems.”  

Finally, it sets a gloomy note: “E-mail and Internet-based communications are powerful tools—and just a few people have figured out ways to turn them against the vast majority of Internet users, at a cost to businesses that is now estimated at over a billion dollars. What will happen when the new powerful tools of biotechnology and nanotechnology become widespread? If we can’t tackle the spam problem, then the future may be quite bleak.”