Pay for your lunch

DQW Bureau
New Update


It is said that along with freedom comes responsibility. In the

net world, however, along with freedom has come unsolicited attention. Be it

spam or phishing or other forms of abuse, online anonymity is assuming demonical


According to the IDC survey Worldwide E-mail Usage 2007-2011,

this year will see the volume of spam e-mail overtaking the volume of

legitimate, person-to-person e-mail. The survey predicts that 97 billion e-mail

messages will be sent this year, of which 47 billion will be spam messages.

Almost as soon as filtering technologies figure out how to keep out one form of

spam, another form sprouts to beat the technology.

Fraud cases are not far behind in misusing the net. According to

a survey by Experian, 2,124 victims contacted Experian's Victims of Fraud

service for the first time in the second half of 2006, a 69 percent increase on

the same period in 2005. Techniques of perpetrating fraud have become

sophisticated enough to outwit technology. As recently as April this year four

customers of Dutch bank, ABN Amro, became victims of a phishing scam and

revealed their passwords. An undisclosed amount of money was stolen from their

accounts, even though they were protected by a two-factor authentication system

(single-use multi-digit numerical codes to complement the existing security as

well as the username or PIN).


All this just goes to show that despite huge advancements in

security technologies, the Internet is as unsafe a place as ever. Could it be

because the weakest link in the chain is the e-mail system itself? What can be

done to protect users and to enable them to use the power of e-mail

communication to the fullest?

Five big ISPs in the US have taken a first step. They use a

technology called CertifiedE-mail from Goodmail Systems to mark legitimate

e-mail with a blue ribbon, before it is delivered to the users' mailboxes. If

businesses that send bulk messages want to certify their messages, they need to

pay a quarter of a US cent per e-mail. The target for this scheme are large

corporations and financial institutions, which use mass mailing that can be

spoofed or detected by spam filters. The service will cost about one-tenth the

commercial price for not-for-profit organizations.

I have said this before, and I don't mind repeating. It's a

basic law of economics that there's no such thing as a free lunch. The price

we have paid for free e-mail is huge, if you calculate the cost of valuable

bandwidth wasted on spam and precious time spent on weeding it out. Everyday,

for months on end. Free e-mail is a bad bargain, when you look at the scale of

fraudulent e-mail and the losses caused by it.


Just like you pay more to buy a house in a 'safe' locality

that has good security systems, the time has come to shell out some money to

keep your information secure and your communication systems reliable. And to

ensure that your e-mails really get delivered and read.

Talking of reading-I do hope that you will enjoy reading the

current issue of Dataquest. This yearly compilation of data has chartered

the growth of information technology in India from 1983. It is always a

challenge-and a pleasure-to produce it.

The author is Editor-in-Chief of

CyberMedia publications