MessageLabs: No law will stop spam

Anti-spam specialist MessageLabs believes that legal measures cannot solve the problem of unwanted email and phishing scams.

MessageLabs: No law will stop spam

“Legislation is a blunt instrument, and a slow instrument,” said Paul Wood, senior analyst of MessageLabs, speaking to PC Pro at the Infosecurity conference in London. He noted that legal measures such as the European E-Privacy Directive and the American CAN-SPAM Act had failed to stem the tide, with spam now making up 85% of all email communications.

He suggested that a partial solution could involve new regulations at the ISP level. “Certainly, when it suits them, ISPs can monitor internet activity,” notes Wood, alluding to the blocking of websites flagged by the Internet Watch Foundation. “But right now very few ISPs check who or what’s at the end of their connections. There my be a point within the next five years when their self-regulated status as a conduit may change.”

Ultimately, though, Wood concluded that users must take responsibility for their own online welfare. “When I’m driving down the road and the lights are green, I don’t slow down: I have trust in the infrastructure. But you can’t use the internet with that degree of trust. On the internet you simply don’t know what you’re dealing with.”

“Even if I’m working for a big company, and the bad guys can’t penetrate my firewall, they can always hack into a smaller company whom I work with and piggyback an attack onto an internal conversation. That sort of attack is almost impossible for me to detect.”

In the face of this bleak outlook, Wood expressed the hope that users would wise up to the dangers they face. “I hope governments will ensure this information is cascaded down into schools. Computer users need to know not just how to do things on the computer, but how to be safe.”

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