Spam hits home

Everything is not as it seems, at
least in the world of email.

Just because someone receives an
email from a familiar name does not mean it came from that person.  And it could activate a virus or other software
that allows an unscrupulous person to use the computer without the owner even
knowing it.

But without anti-spam – the name
for unsolicited email advertising – legislation in place, not much can be done
about the large quantity of bulk messages promoting products, services or
fraudulent schemes clogging our inboxes, said Dave Archbold, managing director
of the Information and Communication Technology Authority.

“Spam is a huge business. People
make millions on it,” said Mr. Archbold.

Worldwide, countries use a
combination of legislative and regulatory measures, self-regulation including industry
codes, education and awareness campaigns, and technical measures such as filtering
to address the spam problem.

The Authority already tried to initiate
Cayman Islands anti-spam legislation in 2006.

Interest at the time was limited
and the legislation did not proceed past the public consultation phase.

“In fact, the only comment we got
was from Cable and Wireless,” said Mr. Archbold.

 As computer users often discover, spammers
will deliberately send messages with local email addresses on them based on the
assumption that a message from a familiar address is more likely to be opened.

More sophisticated spammers will
tailor the email addresses atop their lists to the area they are sending their
messages.

 “Sending an email with a fake originating
address takes only about four lines of code to write – a simple trick but one that
can be easily traced by an IT department,” said Mr. Archbold.

But for serious spammers, writing a
few more lines of code enables them to completely cover their tracks.

“There would be practically no way
to determine the origin of the email message,” he said.

As the Cayman Islands population
grows and more people open email accounts, Mr. Archbold said it’s more likely
that spam will appear to originate from a dot.ky domain.

And for those wondering how a
friend or acquaintance’s email happened to top a spam message, Mr. Archbold
says the reason is simple.

Unless your email is a completely
secret, it’s likely on a spammer’s email database.

“For anyone who has used their
email address to register for a website, or sign up for a newsletter, the
likelihood is their address is already in the hands of spammers,” he said.

Those address lists, stored on a
company’s server or computers, are routinely sold or stolen.

Your email may also have been found
by a programme that spammers unleash to troll all web pages and capture email addresses.

No matter how they are obtained,
the databases are bought and sold for a lot of money.

With the spam problem ever-present,
the Authority is planning to re-launch the anti-spam legislation public
consultation.

The 2006 document put forward a
number of reasons for Cayman to introduce anti-spam legislation that still
apply today.

On one hand, it would enable legal
action to be taken against spammers based in the Cayman Islands, and prevent
the Cayman Islands from being seen as a safe haven as overseas jurisdictions
crack down harder.

The paper also argued anti-spam
legislation might assist the Cayman Islands in obtaining international
cooperation to combat overseas spam if it had its own house in order and allow
Cayman Islands authorities to effectively co-operate with overseas government
anti-spam enforcement agencies.

While anti-spam software can
provide a limited line of defence against spam, only time will tell if Cayman
is now fed up enough to fight back.

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