ISPs caned in spam debate

ISPs have little interest in stopping the spam menace especially when it comes to corporate customers as they profit from charging for the amount of information downloaded.

Nick Hawkins, Asia-Pacific general manager of managed e-mail security services vendor MessageLabs, believes that with major spam attacks costing enterprises thousands of dollars in ISP charges, there is "little inclination" to stop spam clogging e-mail systems.

Declining to pinpoint companies in Australia averse to fighting the spam problem, Hawkins said this was more evident among Asia-Pacific region ISPs.

The National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) regulatory general manager Tom Dale estimates the total volume of spam doubles every six months with 35 per cent of all inbound business messages typically just spam.

Gartner estimates this percentage will spiral to 50 per cent by 2005 while NOIE claims it is costing enterprises $960 per employee each year in productivity losses.

Hawkins argues ISPs are the only ones positioned to tackle spam: "Who sits between users and spam? Who is one of the best placed organisations to deal with spam? It's ISPs."

Claiming most ISPs are ignorant of the headaches spam creates for end users, he said the issue boils down to one of inadequate education from within the industry.

ISPs, as a group, have shown no concerted effort to stop spam from reaching subscribers, Hawkins said, suggesting the solution to the problem can be commoditised and customers would pay for anti-spam solutions.

Canberra-based mid-tier ISP CyberOne rejected the claims outright denying ISPs profited from spam.

"Frankly this seems like a silly claim by MessageLabs," CyberOne director Rohan Whitmore said.

To suggest that an ISP would encourage spam or try to profit from it was irresponsible and made no commercial sense, said CyberOne managing director Maciej Mikrut. "Spam is a growing problem and one of the biggest headaches facing access providers," he said.

"Most of the accounts we provide are unlimited data accounts. If our clients were forced to download masses of unsolicted e-mail, we would bear the brunt of the cost - not our customers.

"CyberOne spends a large amount of time, energy and money in implementing ways to block unsolicited e-mail traffic [such as a] variety of mail-scanning solutions to identify and block spam and virus-infected e-mail," Mikrut stressed.

He maintained ISPs can't catch all spam but make an honest effort.

"Clients hate spam, so we hate it. It is bad for business. And anything that affects a client's experience of the Internet is going to be bad for the industry."

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