Mounting Spam Problems? Complacent Users Probably Aren't Helping

Network News Break: You know spam's a problem, maybe your boss doesn't: Doing your job too well can cause its own problems. Also: New almost-WiMax gear and the siren call of lock-in, MaXXan's new smart SAN switch, broke phishers duly fined, and a new law to battle spyware.

By Michael Hall | Posted Jun 18, 2004
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We remember our initial attitude toward spam, before we ever got any and before we had any servers to protect from it: We thought it was just carping from people who had enough time to complain about not having enough time to just delete a few e-mails they didn't want. Then we started getting our own -- dribs and drabs that we could ignore, then a flood, then the inevitable headaches it brings when you've got a server to deal with.

Even if comparing spam counts is still a sort of nerd hobby, we count ourselves as duly sensitized to the problem these days: We don't like spam, we wish people would stop sending it, we do our best to stop it, and we bang the drum for technological solutions to the problem.

If only the end users agreed.

eSecurityPlanet reports that as much as IT professionals are howling about spam, most users are pretty complacent:

Slightly more than 50 percent of end users surveyed say spam is not a problem in their workplace. However, 79.1 percent of IT managers say it is a problem in the workplace.

When end users were asked if they think spam is under control at their company, 8.4 percent say it's out of control; 23.3 percent say it's barely under control, and 68 percent say it is under control.

Compare that to IT administrators who were asked the same question. A similar 10 percent say it's out of control; 33 percent say it's barely out of control, and 56 percent say they have it under control.

The problem "IT administrators" (and that includes networkers) face is where the folks they work for fit in in terms of outlook. In tech companies, management might be more attuned to the problem, even if the average executive doesn't experience a lot of spam. In non-tech companies, doing your job too well means the boss frowns on efforts to do more to fight the problem as needless effort. On top of that, users who sense that the spam problem is somehow "fixing itself" are probably a lot more likely to forget the good (but inconvenient) habits that help stem the spam tide in the first place, like being parsimonious with their addresses in the first place.

The best solution we've seen to that problem is the occasional report on just how much spam you're stopping at the gate. IT folks pride themselves on making things "just work" for their users, but sometimes that's the wrong way to go about it. If you aren't mailing a monthly rundown of just how much spam isn't getting to end users for your CTO to pass along to managers in other parts of the operation, maybe it's time to start.

Elsewhere:

» More WiMax news: SkyPilot Networks will reveal its new carrier- and enterprise-oriented system:

[SkyPilot] decided 802.11a, the 5GHz flavor of Wi-Fi, had the capacity and performance, but needed better range. To get that, SkyPilot uses higher power and directional antennas.

The result is the SkyPilot System for point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, and mesh connections in the outdoors. The products consist of the $2,499 SkyGateway which can connect to the network backhaul, and the $499 SkyExtender, which as the name implies, extends the range of the network via multiple mesh hops. Both are made to be mounted on towers, buildings, etc. The company says that in tests the products can handle a line-of-sight (LOS) range of about 20 miles.

We did say "WiMax news," not "beefed up WiFi news: SkyPilot says the new system has been built in such a way that it can eventually be moved to WiMax/802.16. On the other hand "eventually" is awfully vague.

Yesterday we noted Proxim and Intel getting in the WiMax game with some products aimed at release in early 2005. Today, the Motley Fool noted the shot in the arm this offered Proxim, which pretty much blew its first pass at WiFi. It doesn't surprise us that the company learned and showed up early for the second wireless tech go-round with a new reverence for standards. With WiMax not arriving quite soon enough to suit everybody (see our previous consideration of Alvarion's BreezeMax), we wonder what will become of all these "while we're waiting on WiMax" implementations. The temptation to lock customers in always seems to loom large...

» In keeping with our policy of trying to have some good news for Fridays, we're pleased to note a pair of phishers were busted and prosecuted. The phishers, one of them an unnamed minor, settled up with the FTC for trying to bilk AOL and PayPal customers out of account information. The court was duly harsh when it levied a $125,000 fine on each of the wrongdoers, which it promptly waived when the criminal masterminds proved unable to pay.

» While you're waiting for five o'clock to roll around, you could do worse than to pop by internetnews.com and read an interview with Vint Cerf, who co-designed TCP/IP. It covers everything from IPSEC to how to handle spam.

» MaXXan has rolled out a SAN switch it says leads the rest of the market by 12 to 18 months:

The MXV500 supports 1 and 2 Gbps Fibre Channel and is architected to support 4 and 10 Gbps Fibre Channel in the future. It also offers FC over IP protocol support for connecting SAN islands. The MXV500 will also support the iSCSI protocol via a simple software upgrade in the near future. The platform supports core storage services such as FC over IP, IP trunking, LUN masking and on-the-fly remapping, as well as higher-level applications like replication, snapshots, virtualization, NAS and virtual tape.

Impressive specs aside, the company says the real gain comes from its built-in intelligence:

MaXXan says the new MXV500 eliminates the need to deploy storage applications (intelligence) into host servers, independent appliances or array controllers. The company's SANe architecture design reduces operating expenses and overall management costs by centralizing the deployment and management of key storage applications such as virtualization, data replication, snapshot, mirroring, NAS and virtual tape in a heterogeneous IT environment. The platform provides support for both hardware and software deployed in the solution.

» Congress says what this pesky spyware thing needs is another law to fix it, so that's what we're getting with the "Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act" (conveniently shortenable to the "SPY Act"):

In the disclosure notice required under the proposed law, the SPY Act requires consumers be informed of the type of information the software collects or sends or the purpose for which the information is collected or sent. The bill also requires that spyware that the consumer consents to download must be easily uninstalled "without undue effort or knowledge" on the part of the computer user.

The Week in Network News

» Monday: Comcast Blocks Port 25: Why Was it Ever Open?

ISP Comcast has taken to blocking port 25 when it detects spam-like traffic levels. It's a good move the company says has reduced spam coming out of its net by 20 percent. Why isn't the block default behavior? Also: MIMO pushes WLANs further, HP spruces up its network management tools, and just in time for VoWLAN, we get a crash course in question-asking.

» Tuesday: Akamai Staggered: Is It a Distributed Single Point of Failure?

Akamai, the content distribution outfit of choice, took one on the chin this morning slowing or knocking out some of the Web's biggest sites. Is it the single point of failure IP was designed to avoid? Also: Juniper rolls into Cisco country, the FTC agrees that giving spammers a mailing list is a bad idea, Microsoft releases XP SP2 RC1, and a Bluetooth worm wriggles onto smartphones.

» Wednesday: Akamai's Side of the DDoS Story: Measurement Service Got it Wrong

Akamai has issued a press release regarding yesterday's DDoS attack, but its strident rebuke of a Web measurement service's numbers sidesteps key issues. Also: Iomega releases point-n-click NAS, CAN-SPAM is an expensive and likely failure, and phishing rang up losses of as much as $1.2 billion last year.

» Thursday: Proxim and Intel Scramble the WiMax Gear

Proxim and Intel have announced plans to have WiMax kit on the market by early next year. Let the foot race begin. Also: Cisco eats a rival, Linksys releases an 802.11g range extender, and Novell steps in to save a struggling open source IPSec project.

The Week in CrossNodes

» NFS/NIS: Lessen Your Legacy Security Liabilities

You may be an old-school holdout, or you may have inherited a network with NFS/NIS driving some of the file-sharing load. Either way, here's how you can button down these venerable but potentially dangerous services.

» VoWLAN: The Wireless Voice Future is Here ... Almost

VoWLAN might be the chocolate and peanut butter of networking, but the convergence of VoIP and wireless freedom has its share of snags. Here's what you need to know.

» Squid Puts the Squeeze on Net Wrongdoers (Part 2)

Between online deathmatches, hearts tournaments, and sports bookies, your network might be looking more like a playground than a place to get work done. Here's how to use Squid to button down the traffic and make sure your more slippery users don't slide out of its grasp.

» Three LDAP Browsers for the Asking

Getting your information in a directory is just half the battle: The other half is finding it. Here are three LDAP browsers, free of charge and up to the task of digging through your data.

Network News Break is CrossNodes' daily summary of networking news and opinion, served up fresh daily. Please send your comments and suggestions to the editor.

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