- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The Chinese government has blocked 127 computer servers it said were being used to send mass amounts of unwanted e-mail. The action comes a month after Internet users in the country announced the formation of a special antispam task force.

The government-owned Internet Society of China (ISC) said any e-mail from the servers automatically would be prevented from reaching the recipient. The ISC said 90 of the servers were based in Taiwan and eight were from the mainland. The remaining were from outside China, including 16 from the United States.

“This has been the first large-scale spammer blockade launched by the Chinese Internet industry,” Ren Jinqiang, an antispam director with the ISC, told China’s Xinhuanet news service.

Last month, the China Internet Association, a coalition of companies and Internet users, announced that it would set up a special task force to fight spam, calling it a threat to the communist country’s political and social stability.

Chinese Internet officials said blocking the servers became necessary after the operators ignored warnings last month to stop sending spam. The warnings were sent to operators of 225 spam servers worldwide. Many of those servers are believed to have been involved in two cyber-attacks that shut down the ISC’s Web site between Aug. 21 and Aug. 27.

One of the servers being blocked is operated by Shanghai Online, one of the country’s largest Internet service provi-ders.

Spam is generally considered any unsolicited commercial e-mail. Internet analysts estimate it costs business as much as $10 billion annually in services and lost productivity.

Some spam experts say the crackdown in China could lead to less spam worldwide. Many other servers in China already have been blocked by Internet service providers in other countries.

Critics of China said the rest of its blacklist is too heavily weighted against Taiwan, which mainland China views as a rogue state. Taiwan has about 10 million Internet users, compared with nearly 70 million on the mainland.

Internet analysts believe that as much as 60 percent of spam sent to computer users worldwide originates or is routed through servers in China. Spamhaus, a London group that tracks spammers, identified on its Web site 633 servers at 82 Chinese Internet service prov-iders that send spam. The list includes members of the ISC.

Many e-mail servers in China are poorly configured and allow spammers to send e-mail anonymously through vulnerabilities known as “open proxies,” analysts said.

Spamhaus said more than 100 of North America’s worst spammers have set up inexpensive operations in the suburbs of Beijing.

China Telecom, one of the largest Internet service provi-ders in China, receives more than 50,000 complaints of spam per day, according to Spamhaus. Because of this, many companies have gone so far as to block any incoming e-mail from Asia.

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