TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Anti-Spam Tool Going Out of Business

Anti-Spam Tool Going Out of Business

Anick Jesdanun, AP (
Thu, 28 Dec 2006 21:25:11 -0600

Anti-spam tool ceases as spammers evolve
By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet Writer

The Open Relay Database, a tool e-mail service providers used for
years to help curb the spread of spam, is ceasing operations, a death
partly attributable to its own success. It was 5.

For years, spammers exploited e-mail servers with open relays -- those
that accept mail from anywhere for relaying to anywhere else -- to pass
along their junk pitches.

Service providers responded by using lists like the ORDB to block all
mail -- including legitimate messages -- passing through open-relay
servers, in turn pressuring operators of such relays to accept outbound
mail only from their own customers.

Mail-server software also has been shipping with the relays closed by
default, such that open relays aren't as big of a threat today. These
days, spammers instead use zombie computers, generally home computers
taken over by viruses and other malicious software to relay spam such
that messages appear to come from legitimate customers.

"ORDB was a holdover from the past era when open relays were a major
vector for spam," said John Levine, co-author of "Fighting Spam for
Dummies." "Now the vast majority of spam is sent by virus-controlled
zombie computers. There's way more of them (than) there ever were
open relays."

Lists that target zombies as well, such as one from the Spamhaus
Project, have in recent times been more effective, Levine said.

The number of open relays listed at ORDB dropped in late 2004 and has
largely leveled off at about 225,000 servers since then.

The Danish volunteers who ran ORDB ultimately decided to shut down the
project rather than expand it to include zombies -- something that
would have taken a lot more work without adding much to resources
already available from Spamhaus and elsewhere, said Andreas Plesner
Jacobsen, one of the database's operators.

The decision was made a year ago, "but nobody got around to executing
it," he said Wednesday.

Jacobsen added that so few rely solely on ORDB to fight spam these
days that people shouldn't suddenly see more junk in their inboxes.

In a Dec. 18 farewell note, the database's operators said open-relay
lists "are no longer the most effective way of preventing spam from
entering your network as spammers have changed tactics in recent
years, as have the anti-spam community."

Operators plan to shut down the Web site on Sunday.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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