China Joins International Anti-Spam Pact

Beijing has officially joined international efforts to fight spam. The Chinese government yesterday adopted the London Action Plan on International Spam Enforcement Collaboration.

The purpose of the Action Plan is to promote international spam enforcement cooperation and address spam-related problems, such as online fraud and deception, phishing, and the spread of viruses.

Numbers Climbing

Spam is a growing problem. BT Openworld estimates that 41 percent of the 25 million e-mails it monitors is spam. Microsoft said it blocks about 2.4 billion junk e-mails every day. And Brightmail reports pornographic spam has increased 380 percent since November 2001.

Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley told TechNewsWorld that Beijing’s entrance into the global cooperative is an important step in international efforts to fight spam. According to Sophos research, Chinese computers are the third largest producers of spam (after the United States and South Korea) and greater global cooperation in tackling the scourge has to be welcomed.

“Spammers have been not only sending their spam from Chinese computers, but also using Chinese servers to host the Web sites which spam directs people to,” Cluley said. “Anything which turns the heat up on spamming activities in China is good news for everyone who uses the Internet for legitimate purposes.”

Reviewing the Global Effort

Last October, government and public agencies from 27 countries responsible for spam enforcement laws met in London. Data protection agencies, telecommunications agencies, consumer protection agencies, and private sector representatives decided to build on recent efforts from other international organizations to expand the network of entities engaged in spam enforcement cooperation.

Beijing did not initially cooperate with the London Action Plan. Analysts view Beijing’s decision to join the cause as a positive move that will make it easier for spam-fighting agencies to work with peers in China.

“The spammers themselves are organized and multi-national, so breaking their gangs apart also requires a global effort,” Cluley said. “It remains to be seen whether China will choose to introduce new laws to crack down on spammers, but at least they will now have a forum to discuss with other countries what has worked and what hasn’t when dealing with the threat.”

The War Is Still Raging

While Beijing’s cooperation offers momentum to the global fight against spam, analysts warn that the war is still raging — and we’re not going to see spam from China dry up overnight. Cluely said the best way to defend yourself is to either run anti-spam software or pressure your ISP to offer industrial strength protection against spam and viruses.

“Even if the authorities crack down hard on those using Chinese computers to spew spam and sell spam-marketed goods, there are likely to be other countries which may act as ‘safe havens’ for the spammers,” he said. “So, in the big picture this isn’t going to make a dramatic noticeable difference to the average guy in the street … but it is a very positive step in the right direction, and it makes life that little bit harder for the spammers which has to be a good thing.”

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