Sat, Jun 28, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Taiwan must digest spam

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan will not be spared the growing global problem of spam, or junk e-mail, as Taiwanese do little to protect themselves from the online menace.

"Most people in Taiwan aren't aware that being spammed is a violation of privacy," said Ann Teng (鄧安安), associate public relations manager at Trend Micro Inc, manufacturer of anti-virus software. "Many people just find spam annoying and then delete them."

In some cases users may be their own worst enemies.

"Many people in Taiwan carelessly leak out their e-mail addresses, such as submitting their e-mail addresses to participate in online activities or forwarding to group e-mail services," Teng said.

The largest Internet service provider, Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) with two million e-mail users nationwide, pointed out that in addition to lax protection of personal information, the absence of anti-spam legislation does little to deter unscrupulous spammers, or companies that sell their customers' e-mail accounts to spammers.

"Unlike Microsoft which has filed lawsuits [in US courts] against spammers, we can do nothing but keep spending millions on anti-spam infrastructure or merely request ISPs to suspend services to known spammers," said Cliff Lee (李傑勝), an official at Chunghwa Telecom's data communication business group.

"Since technology cannot beat the myriad junk mail, a law to restrict spamming is urgently needed," Chunghwa's Lee said.

On average, one in every three e-mails received by Taiwanese every day is spam, Lee said. He added the actual number is higher but these were blocked by ISPs before reaching individual users' mailboxes.

"Even so, we still receive many daily complaints from customers concerning mailboxes jammed with junk mail," Lee said.

Private network service providers also say they cannot entirely stem the flood of spam.

"Junk mail can be disguised as newsletters or other forms of mail and therefore not identified by most anti-spam systems," said Jessy Ouyang (歐陽玉珩), a public relations official at Seednet Digital United Inc (數位聯合電信) that provides service for 600,000 e-mail account users.

Another firm said its system can only intercept 20 percent of the junk mail out there.

"Even software giant Microsoft has a hard time battling spamming, what can we do about it?" said Graeth Hsu (許志新), a technician at Openfind Information Technology Inc (網擎資訊軟體).

Some individuals try to block spam by installing anti-spam software in their computers, but Trend Micro's Teng also said no software is 100 percent junk mail proof.

"Even if the software works for a while, it will soon be outdated as junk mail senders are constantly changing the format of spam sent out over time," Teng said.

According to a report recently released by Ferris Research, spam will result in US$10 billion in commercial losses in the US this year due to wasted resources and lost worker productivity.

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