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Spam IT

Has Microsoft 'Solved' Spam? 337

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the depends-on-your-definition-of-solved dept.
MsWillow writes to tell us the Seattle PI is running a story looking back at Bill Gates promise to have the spam problem "solved" in two years. Well, it looks like time is up, and the verdict is -- an emphatic "maybe". From the article: "Microsoft says it sees things differently. To "solve" the problem for consumers in the short run doesn't require eliminating spam entirely, said Ryan Hamlin, the general manager who oversees the company's anti-spam programs. Rather, he said, the idea is to contain it to the point that its impact on in-boxes is minor. In that way, Hamlin said, Gates' prediction has come true for people using the right tactics and advanced filtering technology."
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Has Microsoft 'Solved' Spam?

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  • by jsimon12 (207119) <{tzzhc4} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:39AM (#14538436) Homepage
    Give me a break, I very distinctly remember Microsoft saying that with the advent of protected mode operating systems that virii would become a thing of the past. Hmmm, do I even need to say any more?
  • In short... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:39AM (#14538441) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft has solved spam by ... erm... recommending all the strategies that people were already using before Microsoft set out to solve spam. A hearty thank you to Uncle Bill, then.
  • by w.p.richardson (218394) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:40AM (#14538444) Homepage
    try, try again.

    Or you can move the goalpost in the middle of the game. That's easier.

    Eliminating spam means eliminating spam!

    • Re:When you fail, (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Billosaur (927319) *
      try, try again.

      Or conversely, when you fail, change the requirements and make it look like a success, which is exactly what BG has done. Brilliant!

    • Indeed. Just because the spam is deleted before the end-user sees it, does not mean that the spam doesn't exist, or that it doesn't have a bogus effect on bandwidth and ISPs.
  • I wouldn't say the problem is solved, but it is getting better.
  • by mgv (198488) * <Nospam@01@slash2dot.veltman@org> on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:42AM (#14538461) Homepage Journal
    You solve spam when it stops being sent, not when you stop recieving it.

    These technologies wont work until they are nearly 100% effective. If even a few messages slip through to some users, some people will buy things from spam ads. Which is all the economic incentive a spammer needs. So all they do is hide the problem, not really solve it.

    Bandwidth is still being wasted.

    Michael
    • What's weird is that pretty much the only spam I get seems like stuff sent as chaff to throw off bayesian filters. The stuff that reads like zen poetry. It's nonsensical and doesn't appear to be selling me anything. When I do get one that's trying to sell me something, if I follow the link usually the site is down. Spam seems pretty useless to me. Unless people are just using it as a vector to get to people's inboxes or something.
    • "You solve spam when it stops being sent, not when you stop recieving it."

      I don't see how you can stop the spammers from trying as long as they figure they have nothing to loose or the risks are acceptable. As I see it, this problem can only be solved once it becomes illegal everywhere to send spam from anywhere to anyone, and it becomes impossible for the senders to obfuscate their identities. This way, no one would ever want to send any spam. If they did anyway, they would risk being reported, followin
      • As I see it, this problem can only be solved once it becomes illegal everywhere to send spam from anywhere to anyone

        This doesn't seem to help - every so often, someone in government passes a new anti-spam law claiming it will stop spam. But it doesn't. The reason: the laws are not enforced. We don't need new laws - the spammers are already break the law (or did you think that setting up botnets without the computer owner's permission was legal?)

        Ignoring email spam for a moment, I think a great example he
  • A Plan for Spam (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:42AM (#14538464) Journal
    I scoff at Bill Gates' "efforts" to reduce spam. What has he done precisely?

    Probably just deferred the responsibility to one of his underlings. Aside from that, he talks about crazy methods such as deciding how much money the sender has to pay you before you open the e-mail [cbsnews.com].

    Gates has plenty [microsoft.com] of articles [microsoft.com] which detail how much he hates spam. Anyone can sit down and write this, but Gates gets the high exposure interviews with the Wall Street Journal and the AP.

    Gates is all talk. If you want to read some articles from some very interesting people, check out A Plan for Spam [paulgraham.com] by Paul Graham. It talks about simple ways to write Bayesian spam filters and does a very good job at describing how they work. Another valuable member of the anti-spam community is Jonathon Zdziarski [nuclearelephant.com] who has written many books about how to actually get rid of spam. You can also read the Slashdot interview [slashdot.org] with him.
  • by backslashdot (95548) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:43AM (#14538471)
    My Hotmail Inbox averages about 2 spams a week. However, my "junk mail" occasionally has a legitimate email dropped in there too. However all things considered, 2 spams a week in my Inbox isn't that bad.

    So, yeah, Microsoft may have "solved" spam .. but their solution has rounding errors.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      However, my "junk mail" occasionally has a legitimate email dropped in there too. However all things considered, 2 spams a week in my Inbox isn't that bad.


      So if this happens at any frequency .. it means you might as well count the Junk Mail folder as part of your Inbox .. and count all the spams in there daily .. cause now you have to check the Junk Mail folder in case something went in there by mistake.
    • by Professor_UNIX (867045) on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:10AM (#14538684)
      My Hotmail Inbox averages about 2 spams a week. However, my "junk mail" occasionally has a legitimate email dropped in there too. However all things considered, 2 spams a week in my Inbox isn't that bad.

      That's not "solving" spam, that's masking it. My company uses RBLs at the external mail gateways to try and control the flow of spam into our network. 80% (200,000 of 250,000 daily messages) is directly blocked via this method... that bandwidth is still being used, but we halt the flood of the e-mail to our internal mail servers before it can be a burden to our users.

      Of the mail that does get through, another 20% is still spam that didn't get blocked by an RBL so it has to pass through another anti-spam gateway (spamassassin) that does analysis and tagging of the message before passing it on to the internal mail server. Of the mail that gets through, roughly 5-10% is probably mismarked as not being spam when it is. That ends up being a shitload of mail that still gets through into a user's inbox that they have to review and delete. Spread that across thousands of users and you have a very real problem.

      What we really need are vigilantes to go out and kill the spammers. We have their names and their addresses on the ROKSO list. Kill those 200 spammers and it'll prove a powerful lesson to the remaining ones that haven't popped up on the radar yet. People need to learn that if they spam they will die. Without that threat I'm afraid spam will only become an ever-increasing problem until there will come a point where e-mail is a completely useless medium to use for communications without redesigning the protocol.

      So, anyone got an ex-con brother who doesn't care whether he lands back in prison or not? ;-)

      /joking of course, please don't kill anyone... just break their hands.

  • by jbash (784046) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:46AM (#14538498)
    I run an Internet business. I hate when people write me from a hotmail address because there are low odds that my even *replying* to their email will get through their filter. Every once in awhile I'll run into this situation...

    Customer with a hotmail address emails me with a question.

    I hit reply and give them my answer

    A few days later they write me again asking why I haven't responded.

    I reply again. They don't get my response. They then get pissed and I lose the sale.

    The problem is that Hotmail errs on the side of filtering out too much when you can't even reply to a hotmail user. And many people don't even bother to check their "spam" folders.

    I'm no computer engineer, but I would think that merely replying to an email should make it through a spam filter 100% of the time. It's amazing that a company like Microsoft can't hire engineers competent enough to figure that out.

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:56AM (#14538570) Journal
      How would you know that an email is a reply?

      I am to unpopular to get a lot of spam but the few I get on my gmail account all seem to be beginning with "Re:" clearly seeking to trick me into believing it is a reply.

      Of course you could check the headers but these could easily be faked. In seen spams in the past that got through where I had real trouble figuring out where the fuck they came from. Some I even seemed to have sent myself.

      The only real way to check it would be for hotmail to keep a track record of everyone you send mail to, add them to your adress book and then let those emails bypass your spam filters.

      Silly Hotmail for not doing that. OH wait, they do! When you send an email via hotmail you are asked wether you want to add that person to your contact list. Most people don't bother.

      My tip to you? Make it very clear that if they contact you via hotmail it may be filtered. Also check why you are being spam filtered. Is it based on your hostname or is the content of your email to spammy?

      I know your pain, I dealt with it myself although in my case I am not depended on hotmail users so simply don't care that much. It is a lot of extra work but that is the cost of spam. No spam, no spam filters. It is something people often forget, it is not just the bandwidth cost and the time wasted sorting through spam but also the fact the real emails get lost in the mess. But don't worry, Bill Gates promised he would solve it. Has he ever lied before?

      • "The only real way to check it would be for hotmail to keep a track record of everyone you send mail to, add them to your adress book and then let those emails bypass your spam filters. Silly Hotmail for not doing that. OH wait, they do! When you send an email via hotmail you are asked wether you want to add that person to your contact list. Most people don't bother."

        OR you would do something REALLY INNOVATIVE and automatically add recipients to a whitelist that is SEPARATE from the contacts list.

        Wow, I sh

      • I know your pain, I dealt with it myself although in my case I am not depended on hotmail users so simply don't care that much. It is a lot of extra work but that is the cost of spam. No spam, no spam filters. It is something people often forget, it is not just the bandwidth cost and the time wasted sorting through spam but also the fact the real emails get lost in the mess.


        Spamassassin doesn't lose any of my valid emails.
      • So why not use the Message-ID of the sent message -- if it appears in References, it's a damn good bet it's a real reply, eh?

        • So why not use the Message-ID of the sent message -- if it appears in References, it's a damn good bet it's a real reply, eh?

          Ok, so now we will see spammers that go through archives of mailing lists to harvest valid Message-IDs to pester the senders with...

      • I think having hotmail keeping a database of all sent addresses (mentioned already) is the best solution. Another way would be to put in a string of random alphanumerics at the end of the email (along with a message explaining it), which would be unique to that user. Then, assuming the reply has the original copy with it, it would have that string, and it would pass through. That's what I do with my important emails - I put in "ab093js" or something, and that string is on my whitelist. Kind of dumb, but
      • by aug24 (38229) on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:57AM (#14539070) Homepage
        How would you know that an email is a reply?

        You're a computer engineer and you don't know about the "In-Reply-To" smtp header?

        I don't know whether I'm being Informative or Flamebait here...

        Justin.

      • by shaka (13165) on Monday January 23, 2006 @11:03AM (#14539111)
        How would you know that an email is a reply?

        Using the In-Reply-To: header flag, perhaps? It uses the unique Message-Id. That's how threading works (in good MUAs - Thunderbird has it's own very very strange message threading). Save the message-id for outgoing e-mails, for each user. When a message is received, match the In-Reply-To header against the list of Message-Ids. If it's there, whitelist.

        Easy.
        • That would be the correct solution, but there's a problem - neither Outlook nor Outlook Express honour the In-Reply-To header. So while it would work for properly-written MUAs, neither of MS's own desktop apps would be able to use the feature. Also, given that they have no understanding of the header, I'd be surprised if Hotmail itself did.
      • Of course you could check the headers but these could easily be faked. In seen spams in the past that got through where I had real trouble figuring out where the fuck they came from. Some I even seemed to have sent myself. The only real way to check it would be for hotmail to keep a track record of everyone you send mail to, add them to your adress book and then let those emails bypass your spam filters. Silly Hotmail for not doing that. OH wait, they do! When you send an email via hotmail you are asked w
      • How would you know that an email is a reply?

        Well, grabbing a reply e-mail at random from my inbox, I find these nifty headers: "References" and "In-Reply-To" [faqs.org] (see section 3.6.4 of the linked RFC).

        Whenever you send an e-mail, your mail client (whatever it may be) should generate a Message-ID, and any replies to that message should include this ID in "In-Reply-To" and "References" headers.

        So, identifying a reply is very simple: If the "In-Reply-To" or "References" headers contain the ID of a message t

    • I mean, how is a reply different from a normal email in such a way that the spammers couldn't just make all of their spam emails appear to be replies?

      As you said, you're not a computer engineer, lots of other people are and they haven't come up with a solution yet because it isn't as simple as you seem to think it is.

       
    • I think "too good" is giving Hotmail way too much credit. My friends who still use Hotmail routinely have junk routed to their Inbox and e-mail from a real, genuine person dropped in the Junk folder. I'm not talking about spam that's hard to filter, either - my friend showed me her Inbox one day and the subject line of one of her messages was "Cheap Meds".
  • Paul Graham (Score:3, Informative)

    by putko (753330) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:47AM (#14538503) Homepage Journal
    I thought that Paul Graham and some other folks, solved this problem with Bayesian filtering.

    Paul Graham has a famous essay, A Plan For Spam: http://www.paulgraham.com/spam.html [paulgraham.com]
  • "The problem is [bbc.co.uk] solved."

    -- Bill

  • by LarsWestergren (9033) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:48AM (#14538510) Homepage Journal
    There is this site called Slashdot [slashdot.org] that reported this just 10 days ago...
  • by xiphoris (839465) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:49AM (#14538515) Homepage
    No.

    But, to their credit, that is an extremely hard problem to solve. In many other areas of software engineering, where you "solve" a problem once, the solution is much easier because it is just a technical limitation to be overcome. Spam is different, however, because you're fighting against other people all who have strong financial incentives to defeat your system.

    I'd still say "don't promise what you can't deliver", though. As some critics have pointed out [blogspot.com], failure to do that just may be a systemic problem at Microsoft right now. Hopefully there will be some internal accountability for this one.
  • by lheal (86013) <lheal1999@yahoo . c om> on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:50AM (#14538521) Journal
    It's amazing to me how adept markedrones have become in spinning reality to fit their needs.

    Spam still chokes mail gateways and causes everyone who uses email a hassle. You still can't advertize your email address. Upwards of 90% of the mail that reaches my mail server is spam, usually. Mail filters have been there for more than two years, though they've gotten better as spam has gotten better.

    Spam volume has leveled off, but that's mostly because the system is already saturated.

    If Microsoft really wanted to do something about spam, they'd fix the bugs and unthinkable design decisions that has allowed their software to be taken over and used to send it.
  • by courtarro (786894) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:53AM (#14538542) Homepage
    Even if we've managed to keep spam to a minimum, and we've changed the word "eliminate" somehow to mean "reduce", can anyone honestly say we have Microsoft to thank for all this?

    Oh, and that prediction I made 5 years ago about reducing telemarketers' phone calls? You can all thank me now.

  • by Deviant (1501) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:53AM (#14538548)
    Actually Microsoft has done far more than anybody else in helping me with Spam. The spam filter for Outlook 2003 is very good and Office Update regularly provides updates to the filter that bring it up to date with some of the latest major sources/types to look for. I set it up a level in how aggressive it is, which has resulted in a false positive or two every now and again, and I have not seen any spam in my inbox in some time.

    Don't knock MS on spam until you see Outlook 2003's spam filter. The question becomes if they have the technology that they do in Outlook then why can't the incorporate it into hotmail as well? I would ask the same question about Exchange but I guess they figure most people using an Exchange server are doing it with Outlook.
    • The only problem with your statement is you're talking about a filter at the end point, and so it only helps those that actually use Outlook. I do not ( and I know I'm not alone). So, to re-iterate what has already been said... Microsoft has NOT "eliminated spam". They may have reduced it in the inboxes of people who use their products, but thats a huge leap in logic to say they eliminated it. I have seen a huge drop in spam in my inbox as well, but since I do not use any Microsoft products, I cannot att
      • I don't think it is a fair criticism of MS to judge them by that standard. Fistly, it makes sense that the only people who they are going to help with spam are those using their products. I take "eliminate spam" to mean that they are going to eliminate it from our inboxes. Considering that most SMTP servers are not Exchange and the majority of internet traffic doesn't run through their servers the idea that they can, and should, stop all that traffic pertaining to unsolicited emails is rather ridiculous.

        Ha
        • by khasim (1285)

          I don't think it is a fair criticism of MS to judge them by that standard. Fistly, it makes sense that the only people who they are going to help with spam are those using their products. I take "eliminate spam" to mean that they are going to eliminate it from our inboxes.

          Easy to do. With no "false positive" or missed spam.

          Create folder called "my new mail".

          Setup a rule to move all incoming mail to the "my new mail" folder.

          There! Instantly I have solved the problem and "eliminated" spam from you "inboxes"

  • by digitaldc (879047) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:55AM (#14538556)
    Other initiatives by the company include efforts to teach consumers about what to do with spam when they do receive it.

    Here [pitt.edu] is an idea:

    THREE BEAN SALAD w/SPAM!

    7-oz can SPAM, cubed 1/2"
    1/3 cup choppd onion
    16-oz can cut green beans, drained 1/3 cup sugar
    1/3 cup cooking oil
    16-oz can yellow wax beans, drained
    1/3 cup cider vinegar
    1/4 tsp pepper
    16-oz can kidney beans, drained
    1 tbsp stone ground mustard

    In medium bowl combine SPAM, green beans, wax beans, kidney beans and onion. In small bowl combine remaining ingredients; pour over SPAM mixture. Stir gently, mixing thoroughly. Cover; refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until serving time. Yield: 6 servings.
  • by JabrTheHut (640719) on Monday January 23, 2006 @09:56AM (#14538562)
    Step 1: Make outrageous promise
    Step 2: Make sure the media pick it up and spread it around
    Step 3: Do nothing
    Step 4: Redefine what you meant 2 years on
    Step 5: Profit!

    A bit more complicated than the underwear gnomes' business plan, but much more profitable.
    • Sorry, the Bush Administration has a prior art claim on that business plan, although their version of it has "Step 3: Do whatever the hell we feel like".
  • FTA: "Microsoft, which gathers evidence by collecting spam in special "trap" e-mail accounts, has filed more than 100 lawsuits against alleged spammers and reached settlements worth about $10 million."

    Sounds clever to me:

    step 1: market an OS to the point where it is a de facto desktop monopoly
    step 2: combine clueless users and OS security flaws with unwillingness or inability to fix the OS problems
    step 3: watch bot nets grow
    step 4: sue spammers and settle for $$
    step 5: Profit!

    Yeah I know, 10 Meg
  • My inbox is doing quite well, all things considered. I get one or two a day. If I were not doing any filtering at all, I'd get about 200 a day. So I would say that spam filtering has come a long way. But I would most emphatically deny that Microsoft has had anything to do with that. I use Postini. And I do not use any kind of client-side filtering. Microsoft has nothing to do with my success, and I expect that is true of the majority of e-mail users.
    • My former ISP imposed Postini on its customers without notice a couple of years ago. In the week before I noticed and turned the "service" off it passed about 60% of the spam and stopped about 20% of the valid email.
  • the idea is to contain it to the point that its impact on in-boxes is minor. /i.

    Zero would be nice. Thank you.
  • Only tax it. Such as in the way they havent quite eliminated in with hotmail. There are those spammers allowed to spam after paying the hotmail tax.
  • It's not a question of how you define "solved" but how you define the problem. If you mean "much less spam in my inbox" then filters are doing a good job. If you mean "zero spam in my inbox, and no wanted mail in my spam box, and spam isn't consuming 50% of the world's bandwidth" then we have a long, long way to go.
  • by azav (469988)
    Well, that's a pretty half assed conclusion.

    The problem of spam is solved when people don't have to use filtering options.

    Anyone want some of my daily rolex, stock, viagra, or prescription spam?
  • Based on my inboxes, I'll have to say that spam is pretty much solved, a long time ago. But it wasn't solved by Microsoft. My hotmail gets hundreds of spams a day, and they all end up in my inbox. On the other hand, My yahoo account also gets hundreds of spam a day. Only 2 or 3 get to my inbox. The rest go to my bulk mail folder. My other account that I don't post everywhere on the web gets maybe 20 spam per day, but none of it ever gets to my inbox. Maybe 1 or 2 a week. It uses spam assassin to wee
  • Supply and Demand? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:08AM (#14538675) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft and Google and Symantec are not the warriors on the spam battle front. They can do nothing to properly reduce the costs of fighting spam (the costs that the end user doesn't see but definitely pays for). The warriors are us, geeks and techies who know the real solution.

    Spam continues to be produced because it is generating income. I like to don my black hat and look at the spam forums and see that there still are people making boatloads of money for little investment. Investing US$10,000 in a spam campaign has net some people US$50,000 in a few months!

    Why does spam generate income? Users continue to click. I have e-mail relationships with people all over the world on a daily basis, and it really blows my mind how some very bright people seem to be Internet morons. I honestly believe that the great majority of the world's Internet users have no idea how to properly browse or read e-mail.

    Turning off images is a huge step in the right direction (I had already told many people to turn them off if the e-mail programmed allowed it). What other things have you told your friends or family to do to prevent the dreaded "my computer is so slow" phone call? How many times have you EVER clicked spam? The ratio is the answer to the question: teach others proper Internet usage techniques.
  • "In that way, Hamlin said, Gates' prediction has come true for people using the right tactics and advanced filtering technology."

    We were all using the right tactics and advanced filtering technology two years ago, weren't we? If that's what Gates had intended when he made the promise, he was promising something that already existed.
  • by nathanh (1214) on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:11AM (#14538694) Homepage
    They don't. Instead they define dark as the new standard.

    And you thought it was a joke... receiving spam is now the Microsoft definition of being spam-free!

  • Solution ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by StripedCow (776465)
    A reasonable solution (imho) is by forcing the every sender of any e-mail message to perform some captcha [wikipedia.org]. The captcha can be posed by the receiving party, or any trusted e-mail routing mechanism along the way. If such a captcha would take say 5 seconds to fulfill, then sending a large amount of e-mail messages would become practically impossible (at least it would consume a large amount of the spammer's time!)

    Of course, you still need some whitelist mechanism to be able to subscribe to mailing lists, bu
  • Is that they block emails coming from Gmail especially those invititations to use the service.

  • by lennart78 (515598) on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:18AM (#14538750)
    Spam is often seen by companies as a method to make another profit. They come up with a box or a product that usually should be able to weed out any spam, and YOU, the customer and/or enterprise, should pony up some cash. This is not "solving spam", this is only getting rid of one of the symptoms of spam, leaving the problem relatively untouched. Messagelabs will continue to report that, how much is it these days?, percent of all e-mail traffic is either spam or virus-infected.

    The Microsofts (and Ciscos, etc...) of this world probably think that once e-mail spam stops reaching peoples inboxes, the incentive for spammers to spam will vanish, and with it, the problem of spam. WRONG.

    Marketing and salesforces all over the world have somehow gotten it into their heads that they have some God-given right to pester and harass consumers anytime, anyplace to beat them over the head with whatever they have around that should make you empty your pockets. And e-mail has been a relatively cheap way for them to harass us. But if that won't last, they will find newer, even more intrusive ways to get into our wallets^H^H^H^H^H^H^H hearts. Texting my mobile phone, calling me with product advertisements, harassing me while I'm shopping for groceries, Inserting picture-in-picture commercials during television, etc, etc, etc... I could go on for hours about how evil everything involving marketing and sales is, but hey, we all know that don't we?

    My point is: Spam is not solved by either filtering messages, or making unsollicited commercial e-mail impossible. If Microsoft really wants to enhance the quality of my life, make sure I can for instance enjoy a half hour of television without being constantly interrupted by commercials, and keep those salesdroids away from my favorite supermarket, and away from my phone. Thank you.
  • ...other companies/projects had spam solved before Gates even uttered those words. Where I work, we've been using the Barracuda Spam Firewall for over two years now and the spam that makes it through is minimal. Once again, MS is late to the show but their marketing dollars will make them come out smelling like a rose nonethelesss.
  • by bbzzdd (769894) on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:20AM (#14538774)

    I thought Gates' solution was to have SMTP senders solve a simple math equation from each mail item they wished to post to a server, thus causing spammers a massive slowdown.

    To the best of my knowledge this solution is not in practice and Microsoft is using Bayesian filtering which way predates Bill's promise.

  • I wish I could have done that for finals in college....

  • by scottennis (225462) on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:25AM (#14538816) Homepage
    Hormel [spam.com] is really the ONLY company that can legitimately do something about the problem of SPAM®
  • by the_pooh_experience (596177) on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:27AM (#14538836)

    Several others have mentioned that spam will be "solved" once the sending of it has been stopped. I am not sure that Microsoft could ever solve spam in this sense (or any company, for that matter). I don't deny that MS could make great inroads on the problem based purely on their numbers, but when other operating systems, other filters, other mail programs, etc. exist, Microsoft couldn't possibly be responsible for these.

    This is not to say they are not responsible for their corner of the world, but the best they can do is fix their SMTP holes, include spam filtering software in all of their software/webware products, and if they are feeling useful, develop a clear and documented solution that could used on other systems/programs.

    However asking MS to "solve the problem" is a bit much, even if they did overextend the claim originally.

  • There are actually at least two solutions that can fit Gates' view of the world:
    1. Create a brand new protocol suite to send and deliver email over the net, with a dozen or so of patents over it.
    2. Declare that email is evil and convince governments to make it illegal.
    Simple and effective.
  • Microsoft spams me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yamla (136560) <chris@@@hypocrite...org> on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:30AM (#14538856)
    Not only has Microsoft not stopped other companies sending out spam, they continue to send me spam themselves. I have an open issue with TrustE relating to the Small Business newsletter that Microsoft has been sending me for many months. Every attempt to unsubscribe is met with complete failure. Even complaining to TrustE back in November, and reiterating the complaint two or three more times, has so far only resulted in form letter responses from Microsoft that are completely unhelpful.

    In the past, though not for this issue, I have sent unsubscribe requests to Microsoft by registered mail and THOSE were ignored as well.

    How can me possibly expect Microsoft to solve the spam problem if they themselves resort to spamming users and refusing unsubscription requests?
  • got worse in hotmail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by peter303 (12292) on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:30AM (#14538862)
    If they have "solved spam" they haven't implemented in hotmail yet. I notice the amount spam increasing to be increasing and to be getting through to the "filtered" mail.

    I observe this to be cyclic. Hotmail makes an improvement or some spam king gets busted, then it goes done. But it always comes back to above its previous highs once they learn invasion and new spam-asshole fills the void.
  • Too late Bill, I "solved" our spam problem over 6 months ago without the help of your "technology."

    1. Greylisting
    2. SPF
    3. Spamassassin

    I now receive 90% less spam (including the Junk folder).

    Now go get a day job and stop trying to predict the future.
  • ...they'd be eliminated by now.

    The only decline in spam I've ever had, was caused by using open source spamfilters, blacklists and other stuff no Microsoft-employee has ever touched.

    If anything, the main reason spam is still here is because it's just as easy to turn a Windows box into a zombie now as it was two years ago.
  • by halleluja (715870)
    Oddly enough, my Hotmail account filtered all spam automatically for me just until a week ago...
  • How many Microsoft executives does it take to change a light bulb? None, they redefine "dark" to be the industry standard.

    All over America Pointer Hair Bosses issue a menu stating that all non compliant light bulbs must be removed

    Science marches on ....
  • Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cortana (588495) <sam@robots.orAAAg.uk minus threevowels> on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:38AM (#14538931) Homepage
    It's ironic that in setting out to 'solve' spam, Microsoft all but destroyed the momentum around SPF [openspf.org], fracturing it into several different, incompatible implementations.
    • Re:Irony (Score:4, Interesting)

      by perp (114928) on Monday January 23, 2006 @11:19AM (#14539218)
      It's ironic that in setting out to 'solve' spam, Microsoft all but destroyed the momentum around SPF

      I am now seeing SPF records for fully 1/3 of incoming external email on my medium-sized company's mailserver. Of course I also greylist [ee.ethz.ch] (which virtually eliminates the crap fom zombie PCs), but of the mail that makes it though the filters, the percent using SPF is slowly but surely climbing.

      Do you know of some evidence that shows that SPF adoption is slowing?

  • "Rather, he said, the idea is to contain it to the point that its impact on in-boxes is minor. In that way, Hamlin said, Gates' prediction has come true for people using the right tactics and advanced filtering technology."

    My prediction of solving world hunger has just come true! By contain it to a point for those who chose the right tactics, like having a BigMac for lunch...
  • by spinfire (148920) <dpn@isomerica.net> on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:42AM (#14538967) Homepage
    MSN/Hotmail is well known for ignoring abuse complaints. I get a huge quantity of spam originating from Hotmail's servers, mostly 419 scams. More than half the time I report it it gets sent back because "it doesn't reference a hotmail user." All mails travel through hotmail servers, if you report spam to the MSN address they actually frequently reject the mail because they run a content filter which detects it as spam! See this discussion [spamcop.net] for more info. I ended up finding an address that got me a live person once, and after some bitching they took care of one account. I ended up writing a letter to the FTC (these aren't just spam emails, they're scams) expressing my concern with the lax attitude towards the abuse of hotmail's own system.

    Sorry Bill, if you want to be tough on spam, start with your own company. It doesn't seem to care about the rest of the internet. If Hotmail cleans up its act, I'll start believing your sincerity in the fight against spam.
  • by Caspian (99221) on Monday January 23, 2006 @10:47AM (#14539004)
    Well, two. Same basic idea, but attacking it from two different sides:

    1) Execute all spammers.
    2) Execute all the imbeciles who buy from them.

    Spam is a human problem, not a technology problem. Think of it as the black market, only even sleazier.
  • I guess the new slogan at Microsoft is "If at first you don't succeed, redefine success."
  • by shancock (89482) on Monday January 23, 2006 @11:04AM (#14539118)
    I agree with Microsoft on this. I have been using http://pobox.com/ [pobox.com] for some time now and the results are dramatic. With their filters I can log in and view messages that were rejected and those that are held for review, and have the option of releasing false-negatives and putting them on my whitelist. I still get 5 or 6 spams a day but I can handle this easily. The rejects are in the thousands sometimes. This all happens before the email gets to my email account. Pobox.com is a forwarding service. Mail for me goes there and then is sent to wherever I wish (up to 3 redirects).

    Any program that can make the impact minimal is IMHO - as the article says - the ojbective. I can deal with some junk mail, I just don't want to spend any significant time cleaning it all up. What pobox.com does not get, gmail usually picks it up and places it in my spam folder. Nice. If Microsoft can do this then I think they are on the right track.
  • by hey! (33014) on Monday January 23, 2006 @12:49PM (#14540070) Homepage Journal
    Imagine if you got paid ten cents per email delivered to your mailbox. You come in in the morning to find a hundred spams waiting for you. Sweet! They just paid for your morning quadruple-mocha-latte and a king sized muffin. And none of your friends or customers would blink twice about paying a dime to send you a message.

    Heck, I could live on my spam-account proceeds.

    There's a lot of Internet problems that would be solved by this kind of automatic micropayment system. If Itunes has taught us anything, it's that if you set the price right, it will be low enough that people won't think twice about using the system legitimately, but high enough to add up to significant money in aggregate.

    For example newspapers -- real newpapers (which I define by having journalistic shoe leather on the ground in your city) are dying because they don't have a practical way to pay for real journalism. Which is why they are increasingly cutting back on journalism and filling out the space with opinion -- syndicated at that. To subscribe to the paper for a year, the cost is enough that you have to think about it, predict what your probable future interest in the paper is. If your browser could be configured to send the paper a dime per page read up to a set daily limit, you'd probably spend several times the newspaper's asking subscription price per year without ever thinking of it.

  • by matt me (850665) on Monday January 23, 2006 @01:13PM (#14540400)
    By doing absolutely FUCK ALL about spam in the past two years, rather than aggressively trying to protect its consumers (I use 'consumer' in the force-fed sense), Microsoft have solved their problem (if not ours) by leading their dumb users into accepting spam (if bill gates couldn't fix it, there's nothing that can be done) - their attitude has changed from the questioning human spirit of resistance "this is ludicrous why should I have to put up with this - something must be done!! " to the quite british depressive "ohhh (sigh) spam, it's like rain i just put up with it and make myself a cup of tea". you shouldn't! ATTITUDE!! it's such dumb passive majorities that allow atrocities to be committed. that leaves our majority to fight HARD to make the system better for everyone.
  • by SpryGuy (206254) on Monday January 23, 2006 @01:23PM (#14540527)
    I have to say, since someone here pointed me to K9, and since installing it and spending a couple of weeks "training it", I almost don't notice spam any more. It's awesome. I must get over 100 spam emails a day (easily), but I can't remember the last time one got through (or the last time a legitimate email got snagged).

    If you haven't tried K9, and you aren't happy with your current spam solution, give it a try...
  • by sepski (549852) on Monday January 23, 2006 @01:56PM (#14540948)
    Sender policy framework [openspf.org] is a system to prevent fake sender address in emails. it works [openspf.org] by checking the claimed sender domain, in the email, against a TXT record in the DNS system. The TXT record contains information of ip's or hostnames, allowed to send email on behalf of the domain in question.
    If the email have a faked sender address it can be bounced or labeled suspicious.

    This works amazingly well, and stops all faked sender emails before it's accepted in the server. Effectivly blocking virus and spam sent with forged addresses. Non exsisting domains are allready blocked in the mail servers so if everyone owning a domain was to implement [openspf.org] this. It would make me a very happy person. Ofcouse spammers can still send email from domains under their own control, but those go into online blacklists [google.com] fairly quickly

    Unfortunatly it does not have the widest accept yet, but growing all the time. After hotmail implemented it in their DNS records, spam is at an all time low around here. Not getting a single spam email from faked hotmail addresses in ages.
    And only 6 months ago I had a dedicated "sent from hotmail" folder since it was 99% likly to be spam anyway...

    sepski

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