Monday, July 16, 2007

Government, Consumers, Businesses Must Combat New Spam Threats: FTC Chair

This posting was written by John Scorza, CCH Washington Correspondent.

Convening a two-day summit on spam on Wednesday, July 11, the head of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) called on government, consumers, and businesses to work together to combat malicious spam.

“The risk that malicious spam will erode confidence in the Internet’s benefits to consumers and the global economy is too great to ignore and we must act quickly to address it,” FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras remarked.

Spam has the potential to inundate consumers’ inboxes with unwanted e-mail, facilitate fraud and malicious code, and betray consumers’ trust in the Internet, Majoras noted.

Emerging Threats

“Botnets”—networks of hijacked personal computers used by spammers to conceal their identities—are common, and spammers are launching phishing attacks and delivering malicious code, or “malware,” to consumers’ computers. Emerging threats include “SPIM” (spam over Internet messaging), “SPIT” (spam over Internet telephony) and spam to mobile devices, said Majoras.

Active Enforcement

In view of the challenges, Majoras called for action on several fronts. First, law enforcement agencies need to be active. Majoras said the FTC has brought 89 spam-related actions since 1997. In the past two years, the agency has brought 11 enforcement actions against spyware companies.

In addition to the FTC’s activities, Majoras said, law enforcement agencies such as the Justice Department and the FBI are best suited to shut down criminal operations in most cases. “We cannot permit the electronic world to become a lawless frontier,” the chairman warned.


Second, computer users need to be knowledgeable about with whom they are interacting electronically. To that end, Majoras urged the continued improvement of anti-spam technology and, in particular, domain-level authentication, which Majoras said holds the greatest promise for preventing spammers from operating anonymously.

According to Majoras, 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies and more than 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies use domain-level authentication technology that verifies who is sending electronic communications.


Third, consumers must practice self-defense. The FTC has established an online consumer education tool – – to encourage consumers to protect themselves. The site offers information about phishing, malware and spambots, and encourages consumers to use anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Fourth, Majoras said, collaboration among stakeholders – including technology experts and international stakeholders – is essential.

The remarks by Chairman Majoras (“Developing a Plan for Action in the Fight Against Malicious Spam”) opened the “FTC Spam Summit: The Next Generation of Threats and Solutions,” conducted July 11-12 in Washington, D.C.

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