Microsoft aims to make spammers pay

Despite efforts to stem the billions of spam e-mails flooding inboxes, unwanted messages are still turning e-mail into a quagmire of misery.

Spammers send out tens of millions of e-mails to unsuspecting computer users every day, employing a myriad of methods to ensure their pills, loans and "requests for our lord" pleas fox e-mail filters. Some are even turning to prose and poetry to fool the technological safeguards people put in place. But a group of researchers at Microsoft think they may have come up with a solution that could, at least, slow down and deter the spammers. The development has been called the Penny Black project, because it works on the idea that revolutionised the British postage system in the 1830s - that senders of mail should have to pay for it, not whoever is on the receiving end.

Stamp of approval

"The basic idea is that we are trying to shift the equation to make it possible and necessary for a sender to 'pay' for e-mail," explained Ted Wobber of the Microsoft Research group (MSR). The payment is not made in the currency of money, but in the memory and the computer power required to work out cryptographic puzzles. "For any piece of e-mail I send, it will take a small amount computing power of about 10 to 20 seconds."

News source: BBC News

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