Spam fighters to gather at MIT

Spam, long the arch nemesis of e-mail users, has become so pervasive recently that a whole conference is being held to try to find better ways to fight it. Researchers, industry experts and spam filter hackers are descending on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Friday for what is being dubbed as the first-ever Spam Conference.

The event is being organized by Paul Graham, an emerging antispam leader whose paper, "A Plan for Spam," has sparked serious discussions within the industry over new ways to fight the spam plague. His paper, released last August, argues for the use of e-mail content-based filters, but the conference will feature a variety of speakers with their own takes on how to can spam.

Among the scheduled speakers are open-source researchers, a cyber law expert, and representatives from e-mail security firms CipherTrust Inc., and MessageLabs Ltd. More than 560 attendees are expected, with a special welcome for hackers working on spam filters who hope to get together and compare notes.

Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend, however, and no registration fee is required. In fact, the conference has proven so popular that Graham was forced to change venues just to accommodate all the registered attendees.

The meeting comes on the heels of a series of new reports indicating that e-mail users are fed up with spam. A recent poll by market research company Harris Interactive Inc., for example, indicated that 80 percent of U.S. Internet users find unsolicited bulk e-mail "very annoying," compared to the 49 percent who were very annoyed with spam in 2000.

What's more, spam is increasing. Spam currently accounts for 30 percent of all e-mail and it is expected to comprise 50 percent of all e-mail by July, according to MessageLabs.

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