16 September 2004

South Africa: SA a Potential Mass Spam Target

Johannesburg — There is a dire need for local spam legislation to be revised, as SA is a lucrative mass-spamming target, delegates at the iWeek conference were told.

Speaking at last week's conference, DataPro senior network administrator Greg Massel said legislation alone would not be sufficient in the fight against unsolicited e-mail. He pointed to the fact that spam increased from 50% of total e-mail in July 2003 to 65% a year later.

"International co-operation is required in order to tackle the problem. Legislation alone does not stop spam, but heavy penalties are a deterrent."

Australia has been fairly successful in curbing spam because it could impose penalties of millions of rands per day on offenders, Massel added.

Local legislation on spamming is clearly inefficient, making SA a lucrative target for mass spamming, he said. Bulk e-mail is legal, as long as recipients are provided with an 'unsubscribe' option, but a high number of new spam 'waves' makes this stipulation seem pointless to the recipient.

"Local legislation has gaping holes in it, specifically because there is no requirement for a valid sender address. Effectively we are legitimising spam because prosecution of spammers is near impossible.

"We are potentially the next mass spam target, and there is a dire need for revision of spam legislation."

Spam levels are showing no sign of decreasing from the current level of 14 billion messages a day, Ant Brooks, co-chairman of the Internet Service Providers' Association regulatory sub-committee, told delegates. "At a recent Direct Marketers Association meeting it was revealed that 66% of direct marketers in the US said they plan to increase their mailing list."

The US is responsible for 55% of the world's spam, he added.

The volume of spam could make e-mail unusable, unless people start to take action, Massel said. "As long as we say we can't do anything about it, spam is going to get worse. We are already nearing a point where e-mail is being crippled.

"And if e-mail does become unusable, then a lot of us will be out of business. So we have a lot to lose."

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