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Spam Summit: The Next Generation of Threats and Solutions

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Overview Edit

In July 2007, the FTC staff held a workshop titled Spam Summit: The Next Generation of Threats and Solutions, to examine the evolution of spam as a vehicle for malware and phishing, and to develop strategies for mitigating its effects. The Summit convened experts from the business, government, and technology sectors, as well as consumer advocates and academics. The Summit panelists, nearly 50 in number, all confirmed that spam is being used increasingly as a vehicle for more pernicious conduct, such as sending phishing emails, viruses, and spyware. This malicious spam goes beyond mere annoyance to consumers — it can be criminal, resulting in significant harm by shutting down consumers' computers, enabling keystroke loggers to steal identities, and undermining the stability of the Internet. Due to strong filtering software, however, much of this spam is not reaching consumers’ inboxes. The panelists also confirmed that malicious spam is a technological problem, driven largely by "botnets" (networks of hijacked personal computers that spammers use to conceal their identities) and the exploitation of computer security vulnerabilities that allow spammers to operate anonymously.

Industry is taking a leading role in developing technological tools, such as domain-level email authentication, to "uncloak" these anonymous spammers, and increases in the adoption rates for email authentication were reported. Panelists also agreed that there is no single solution to the spam problem and encouraged key stakeholders to collaborate in the fight against spam.

Generally, the data presented at the Summit suggested that while spam has had some ill-effects on consumer trust, consumers continue to use email on a wide scale and increasingly exercise sophisticated management of their inboxes.

The conclusions reached at the summit were incorporated into an FTC staff report titled: Spam Summit: The Next Generation of Threats and Solutions: A Staff Report by the Federal Trade Commission's Division of Marketing Practices" (Dec. 2007).

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