A Usenet 'death penalty' (UDP) action, taken against UUnet by hundreds of US Internet administrators, has forced the Internet service provider to escalate its battle against Spam email.
Sanctions were imposed last Friday on all traffic passing through UUnet to Usenet - the Internet conferencing system that allows people to post to newsgroups - by a large number of system administrators and other service providers.
This means any postings to newsgroups that pass through UUnet and then an administrator who is running the UDP could end up in the "great bit bucket in the sky", as one administrator put it.
The UDP was imposed after a number of system administrators complained to UUnet about the quantity of junk email received via its service. The company itself admitted it gets 500 complaints per day about Spam.
"UUnet as an ISP seems to be responsible for the majority of the Spam over the last few months, including a lot of pornography postings that have appeared in newsgroups," said Pete Morgan-Lucas, Internet expert and system administrator.
Morgan-Lucas said that a lot of the Spam was coming from people tapping into UUnet's Points of Presence to send large numbers of unauthenticated postings to newsgroups.
"The anti-spam people say that UUnet has been totally inept at keeping control of their network but the death penalty is a double-edged sword. It is like taking the phone off the hook - you are cutting off some things that may be useful," he said.
Spam is the Internet term for junk mail, which costs time and money for users to download and read, particularly within newsgroups. Some of these have recently become so swamped with Spam they have been abandoned.
"UUnet in the US is an upstream provider of wholesale IP to resellers. Chances are that much of the Spam traffic is from the customer of a customer. That is not buck passing, but it explains the complexity of dealing with the problem," said David Barrett, marketing director of UUnet UK.
The 'death penalty' threat has been used in the past against Spam email organisations or persistent offenders. It can be used just against newsgroups, using cancelbots to automatically delete messages, or even extended to a router level to divert all traffic including email.
In response to the 'death penalty' UUNet announced that it would increase its efforts to track the originators of Spam email and cut them off. UUnet's Barrett said the company would be working closely with its resellers to filter news postings and to stop Spammers relaying their traffic via another Internet location, thereby remaining anonymous.
However Barrett was critical of those "vigilantes" who had imposed the UDP. "There are better ways of cutting down on Spam than this. We are improving our counter-measures not because we have been threatened but in the interests of customer service," he said.
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