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E-mail postage will line pockets, not stop spam

    In response to the Perspectives column written by Charles Cooper, "Paying for e-mail: An idea whose time has come?":

    In regards to your current article about charging "postage" for e-mail, I have a number of points of rebuttal.

    1. Why should legitimate users of e-mail also be penalized to stop spam? Frankly, I think Bill Gates is just looking at the massive influx of money this "e-mail tax" idea will generate--for Microsoft.

    2. There is no technically feasible way to charge postage on e-mail. The current e-mail protocol, SMTP, is so insecure and so broken, that it would be as trivial to get around any "postage" system as it already is to forge e-mails. The only way to charge "postage" is to know the true identity of who sent the e-mail. But if you already know that, then you can stop spam anyway (as with the SPF project); i.e., to create a brand-new, secure protocol with positive sender authentication. But if we have that, we already have the solution to spam and don't need "postage".

    3. The vast majority of spam today is sent by computers whose users are unaware that their machines have been taken over by a spam Trojan. Are we to charge them for this?

    4. Most cable modem providers such as Comcast do absolutely nothing now to fight spam by their users, or to block spam or viruses originated by their users. Why do you think they will agree to any "postage" proposal?

    The "postage" idea shows a serious lack of understanding of the current technical flaws in the e-mail network, which underlie spam and worms. The solution to spam (and the recent spate of worms) is to correct those flaws, not tack on some ill-devised band-aid whose only benefit would seem to be to someone's pockets.

    Jawaid Bazyar
    Denver