Anti-Spam Technical Alliance Publishes Industry Recommendations to Help Stop Spam

Yahoo!, Microsoft, EarthLink and AOL Propose Key Best Practices and

Technologies to Tackle the Problem of Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail

SUNNYVALE, Calif., REDMOND, Wash., ATLANTA, and DULLES, Va., June 22

Jun 22, 2004, 01:00 ET from Anti-Spam Technical Alliance

/PRNewswire/ -- The Anti-Spam Technical Alliance (ASTA), whose participants
 include Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:   YHOO), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:   MSFT), EarthLink
 (Nasdaq:   ELNK) and America Online Inc. (NYSE:   TWX), today unveiled the result
 of more than a year of close collaboration by presenting a host of detailed
 best practices and technical recommendations for the entire industry in an
 effort to fight the scourge of spam.
     The proposal provides recommended actions and policies for Internet
 service providers (ISPs) and e-mail service providers (ESPs) as well as large
 senders of e-mail including governments, private corporations and online
 marketing organizations. These recommendations primarily focus on two key
 issues: helping solve the e-mail forgery problem by eliminating domain
 spoofing through Internet Protocol (IP)-based and signature-based solutions;
 and best practices to help prevent ISPs and their customers from being sources
 of spam.
     The complete ASTA proposal can be found at each adopting company's Web
        c24908789d8b/ASTA_Statement_of_Intent.pdf (due to length of URL please
        cut and paste into browser) or
     ASTA was founded in April 2003 to bring together key industry stakeholders
 to drive technical standards and promote collaboration in the development of
 industry guidelines to address the spam problem. Current members include
 leading technology companies such as America Online, British Telecom, Comcast,
 EarthLink, Microsoft and Yahoo!
     "With these proposed solutions, ASTA is taking a huge step toward
 collective and enforceable technologies in reducing spam and e-mail forgery,"
 said Brad Garlinghouse, vice president of Communication Products at Yahoo!
 Inc. "We are laying out clear best practices and Good Neighbor policies that
 will help change the rules of the game on spammers once and for all."
    "We believe that thanks to continued innovation and the ongoing cooperation
 of governments and industry around the world, we are on the right path to turn
 the tide against spammers -- but further change is needed on an industrywide
 basis to thoroughly contain the problem for consumers and businesses
 worldwide," said Ryan Hamlin, general manager of the Anti-Spam Technology &
 Strategy Team at Microsoft. "Our aim with this proposal is to help lay out a
 clear framework for the industry as we continue to work together to end the
 spam business and put our customers back in control of their inboxes once
     "Today's announcement shows the industry's commitment to working together
 to develop the best technical standards and practices that all providers can
 use to stop spam," said Linda Beck, executive vice president of Operations at
 EarthLink. "By collaborating on new ways to better identify the origin of
 messages, we can help lift the veil of anonymity on spammers and restore the
 integrity of e-mail. We encourage continued testing and public discussion in
 order to move toward industry-standard technical solutions."
     "This announcement opens an entirely new chapter in spam fighting on
 behalf of all online consumers. Spam is an industrywide challenge that merits
 an industrywide solution. Creating a set of best practices puts us on a clear
 glide-path to winning a major battle against spammers, scammers and spoofers,"
 said Matt Korn, executive vice president, Network & Data Center Operations at
 America Online. "This proposal also shifts the spam fight toward identifying
 legitimate senders of e-mail to ensure prompt delivery of their e-mail. Now
 we're going to focus on testing and evaluating cost-effective technologies
 that can identify legitimate senders of e-mail and help restore consumer trust
 in their e-mail inboxes."
     About Yahoo!
     Yahoo! Inc. is a leading provider of comprehensive online products and
 services to consumers and businesses worldwide. Yahoo! is the No. 1 Internet
 brand globally and the most trafficked Internet destination worldwide.
 Headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., Yahoo!'s global network includes 25 world
 properties and is available in 13 languages.
     About Microsoft
     Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq:   MSFT) is the worldwide leader in
 software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their
 full potential.
     About EarthLink
     "EarthLink revolves around you (TM)." Celebrating ten years as a leading
 national Internet service provider (ISP), Atlanta-based EarthLink has earned
 an award-winning reputation for outstanding customer service and its suite of
 online products and services. According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2003
 Internet Service Provider Residential Customer Satisfaction Study(SM),
 EarthLink is ranked highest in customer satisfaction among high-speed ISPs.
 Serving more than five million subscribers, EarthLink offers what every user
 should expect from their Internet experience: high-quality connectivity,
 minimal drop-offs and ISP-generated intrusions, and customizable features.
 Whether it's dial-up, high-speed, Web hosting, or wireless Internet service,
 EarthLink provides the tools that best let individuals use and enjoy the
 Internet on their own terms. Learn more about EarthLink by calling (800)
 EARTHLINK or visiting EarthLink's Web site at
     About America Online
     America Online Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.
 (NYSE:   TWX). Based in Dulles, Virginia, America Online is the world's leader
 in interactive services, Web brands, Internet technologies and e-commerce
     America Online is a registered trademark of Time Warner, Inc..
     EarthLink and the EarthLink logo are registered trademarks of EarthLink
     Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United
 States and/or other countries. Yahoo! and the Yahoo! logo are trademarks
 and/or registered trademarks of Yahoo! Inc. The names of actual companies and
 products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.
      For more information, press only:
       Mary Osako for Yahoo!, (408) 349-6255,
       Rapid Response Team, Waggener Edstrom for Microsoft, (503) 443-7070,
       Carla Shaw for EarthLink, 404-748-7267,
       Nicholas Graham for America Online, 703-265-1746
     Summary of ASTA Recommendations
     ASTA's proposal focuses on two key issues: helping solve the e-mail
 forgery problem by eliminating domain spoofing through IP-based and signature-
 based solutions, and best practices to help prevent ISPs and their customers
 from being sources of spam. Recognizing that broad adoption of any technology
 or best practice is critical to solving the spam epidemic, all members of ASTA
 have agreed to the following recommendations:
     Addressing E-mail Address Forgery
     One of the key problems with today's e-mail infrastructure is that
 messages do not contain enough reliable information to enable recipients to
 decide whether an e-mail message is legitimate and reliably identify the
 sender. Spammers take advantage of this fact and commonly disguise the origin
 of their messages by forging the sender addresses on their e-mail using
 someone else's domain name. This is called "domain spoofing."
     Although the problem of identifying the origin of e-mail is complex, there
 are two promising new methods that organizations can implement to lay a
 foundation for future advances and promote authentication that verifies that
 senders of a message is who they claim to be:
     1. Authenticating senders based on IP addresses.
        Currently, the only trustworthy attribute in an e-mail message header
        is the IP address of the server that is transmitting the e-mail. IP
        addresses can therefore be used by e-mail receivers to verify other
        attributes in the message header, such as the sending domain, and thus
        help reduce the common forms of phishing and forgery that are rampant
        today. This verification loop can be done using the existing Domain
        Name System (DNS) infrastructure combined with fairly simple changes to
        the receiver's e-mail systems.
     2. Authenticating senders based on content signing.
        Another approach to sender authentication uses a technology called
        Content Signing (CS). CS systems use public/private key pairs to
        generate the signatures that are used for sender verification. The
        public keys may be made broadly available through a variety of key
        exchange mechanisms or via publication in a directory or in DNS. The
        private keys are stored securely on the domain's mail servers. When a
        user sends an e-mail message, the mail server uses the stored private
        key to automatically generate a digital signature for the message. When
        the recipient's mail server receives the e-mail message, it retrieves
        the sender's public key and uses it to verify the digital signature in
        the message. This verifies both the sender's identity and the integrity
        of the message body (that the e-mail content was not modified during
        As with IP-based sender authentication, the companies believe that
        content signing technologies are an important component of a long-term
        industry solution.
     Throughout the process of implementing these technologies, ASTA members
 will provide feedback that along with other industrywide feedback will enable
 subsequent improvements to the specification to be completed, with the goal of
 providing for the best long-term, industrywide IP based authentication
     It is the belief of this group that the ubiquitous deployment of some or
 all of these proposals, combined with the most innovative anti-spam filtering
 technologies and approaches, continued litigation against the worst offenders,
 appropriate legislation and other measures, will serve to reduce the economic
 incentives and eliminate the entry points for spammers to continue their
 barrage of unwanted communications. ASTA looks forward to the community
 response to this proposal and invites participation from all segments of the
 community to assess the validity and impact of these proposed solutions and
 their accompanying technical specifications.
     Addressing Spam Through Best Practices
     In the proposal, ASTA recommends a number of best practices that
 organizations should implement as applicable. Many of these practices have
 already been adopted by responsible organizations using e-mail today, but
 broader global adoption is necessary, as the combined effect of implementing
 these approaches can serve to minimize opportunities for spammers. Those who
 do not adopt these proposals risk loss of online user confidence in the safe
 and trusted exchange of e-mail for the entire community.
     Specifically, ASTA's proposal outlines the following:
     *  Recommendations for ISPs and mailbox providers and organizations that
        provide Internet connectivity, such as these:
          - Block or Limit the use of Port 25
          - Implement rate limits on outbound e-mail traffic
          - Control automated registration of accounts
          - Close redirectors that can be abused
          - Close all open relays
          - Configure proxies for internal network use only
          - Detect compromised computers (zombies)
          - Educate users to increase use of existing tools
          - Develop effective complaint reporting systems
     *  Recommendations for legitimate bulk e-mail senders, such as these:
          - Do not harvest e-mail addresses through SMTP or other means
            (defined as collecting e-mail addresses, usually by automated
            means) without the owners' affirmative consent.
          - Register your e-mail domain with a creditable safelist provider.
          - Always provide clear instructions to customers about how to
            unsubscribe or opt-out of receiving e-mail. Promptly respond to
            these requests.
          - Do not use or send e-mail that contains invalid or forged headers.
          - Do not use or send e-mail that contains invalid or nonexistent
            domain names in the From or Reply-To headers.
          - Do not employ any technique to hide or obscure any information that
            identifies the true origin or the transmission path of bulk e-mail.
          - Do not use a third party's Internet domain name or allow mail to be
            relayed from or through a third party's equipment without
          - Do not send e-mail that contains false or misleading information in
            the subject line or in its content.
          - Monitor SMTP responses from recipients' mail servers. Promptly
            remove all e-mail addresses for which the receiving mail server
            responds with a 55x SMTP error code (e.g., "user doesn't exist").
     *  Recommendations for consumers, such as these:
          - Install firewalls on PCs as appropriate.
          - Use anti-virus software and other screening tools to detect
            incoming viruses, malware, and harmful or suspicious code.
          - Make use of spam filtering technologies and customize settings that
            provide the appropriate level of protection needed.
     Some of these recommendations are already part of laws in various
 countries including the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography
 and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003 in the United States. However, the
 disparity between laws and the absence of anti-spam laws in most countries
 means the industry needs to come together and adopt consistent policies and
 practices that drive spammers out of business.
     The complete ASTA proposal can be found at each adopting company's Web
         c24908789d8b/ASTA_Statement_of_Intent.pdf (due to length of URL please
         cut and paste into browser) or

SOURCE Anti-Spam Technical Alliance