Spam Confab: Hackers to Rescue?

Wednesday, 15 January 2003, 1:08 PM EST

Hackers from around the world will converge on MIT on Friday to swap intelligence and marshal their collective brainpower for the fight against a seemingly indomitable opponent.

This time it's not Microsoft, DirecTV or the Recording Industry Association of America. It's spam.

A recent Harris Interactive poll found that 80 percent of Internet users found spam "very annoying" and 74 percent favored making mass spamming illegal.

For the beleaguered masses of the spammed, these hackers could be heroes.

It may be some time before any antispam laws make it into the books, but experts say that antispam technologies, particularly e-mail content filters, have the potential to tear down spammers' cottage industry.

"We can break the business model," said Bill Yazerunis, creator of the CRM114 Discriminator filter.

Yazerunis, who will present his research at the conference, claims his filter can catch 99.9 percent of a user's spam without a mistake.

But until powerful filters like CRM114 find their way into the major e-mail applications and on to free e-mail services like Hotmail and Yahoo, antispammers and junk-mail marketers will continue to play cat and mouse.

With emissaries from academia, law, corporations, Internet service providers and a growing number of dedicated antispam organizations, the battle is drawing spam busters from all over.

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