Smart email addresses could slice spam

Software that generates a unique email address for every message sent could help cut down spam, a US computer scientist believes.

This is because hidden in the address are encrypted rules determining who is permitted to reply to the address, as well as how many replies can be sent and when.

For example, a user could safely sign up for a monthly email newsletter by specifying the source of the newsletter and limiting it to 12 messages over the next year. If the address fell into the hands of spammers, their messages would be blocked by the software before it reached the user's inbox.

"The 'Single Purpose' address system reduces spam by stopping it right before the user sees it," says John Ioannidis, at AT&T's research laboratory in New Jersey, US. The software is currently at the prototype stage.

Spam - unsolicited email - is a serious annoyance for millions of people. It is though that a third of the 30 billion emails sent around the world each day is spam. The average US internet user receives an average of 2200 spam emails a year, pushing everything from pornography to stationery.

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