By Andy Sullivan
Home computer users who unwittingly send out spam e-mail should be
disconnected from the Internet until their machines are fixed, the
U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday.
The FTC said it would ask 3,000 Internet providers around the globe to
make sure that their customers' computers haven't been hijacked by
spammers who want to cover their tracks and pass bandwidth costs on to
Online viruses like "SoBig" turn infected computers into spam-spewing
"zombies" that send out millions of unwanted messages without the
owner's knowledge. Zombie networks are responsible for 50 percent to
80 percent of all spam, according to various estimates.
Because many home users lack the technical smarts to fight the problem
on their own, the FTC hopes their Internet providers will help,
although they are not required to do so.
Internet providers should identify computers on their networks that
are sending out large amounts of e-mail and quarantine them if they
are found to be zombies, the FTC said. They should also help customers
clean their machines and tell them how to keep them safe in the first
place, the FTC said.
The FTC said Internet providers should route all customer e-mail
through their own servers, which could upset more than technically
proficient users who run their own e-mail servers.
The FTC also said it plans to identify specific zombie computers and
notify their Internet providers.
Law enforcers in 25 other countries, from Bulgaria to Peru, are also
participating in the campaign, the FTC said.
Absent from the list of cooperating countries was China, where experts
say rapid growth and a relative lack of technical sophistication have
led to a large number of zombie computers.
Most U.S. Internet providers already have taken the steps outlined in
the FTC's letter but they must take care not to squelch legitimate
mail in the process, said Dave McClure, president of the U.S. Internet
"It's sometimes very difficult to tell the difference between spam
coming across your network and your local charitable organization
sending out its monthly newsletter," said McClure, who added that
U.S. law prevents Internet providers from reading customer e-mail.
The FTC's campaign follows on earlier efforts to shut down "open
relays" and other poorly configured computers that have been exploited
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: This would be great, if it happened.
But as you know, there are so many netters who would quarrel about
_anything_ done to actually eliminate (not just filter out) spam. To
their way of thinking, any effort to block access to the internet
(oops, there I go again, mentioning that non-existent thing!) by
these zombies is to be condemmed, since 'no one on the net wants to
see any changes' that may possibly impose on anyone else, and there is
no agreement on what is considered offensive and malicious, etc,
yada, yada, adnauseum etc. If you cannot be man enough to protect your
own computer while the cesspool fills up, swarms around you and
overflows, then, they would tell you, 'maybe you would be better off
just not doing any networking.' How selfish they are in feeling that