- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

Chinese Internet providers will be fighting junk e-mail with new ammunition, after meetings sparked by an outcry over the amount of spam messages that are routed through the country.

A series of meetings in China between Internet providers and antispam groups has helped Chinese Internet providers understand how to prevent their servers from being hijacked by spam gangs, people involved in the discussions said.

Last month, the Internet Society of China (ISC) hosted a series of workshops to discuss how to reduce spam, which makes up about two-thirds of all e-mail worldwide.

As much as 70 percent of all spam is routed through China. Until the April workshops, most of China’s antispam efforts focused on stopping incoming e-mail; few providers acknowledged that spammers were using their networks to send outbound spam as well.

“We can say that it was hugely successful in every possible way,” said David Crocker, one of the original developers of e-mail who now is a principal with Sunnyvale, Calif., consultant Brandenburg InternetWorking. “The dialogue was extremely encouraging.”

The ISC workshops came after the first conference involving China’s new Anti-Spam Coordination Team in February and the creation of a Chinese division of the British antispam group Spamhaus.

U.S. lawmakers and Internet providers have said that China’s cooperation is essential to stopping spam, because laws in the United States and Europe have not worked in catching spammers with overseas operations.

“Clearly, folks in China are beginning to realize they have a spam problem that needs to be addressed at a basic level,” said Ray Everett-Church, counsel for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail.

E-mail services outside China have refused to accept any e-mail from certain Chinese Internet providers because so much of the e-mail coming from their networks is spam. Several Chinese Internet services are listed on “blocklists,” which identify the most spam-heavy providers.

The Chinese Internet Society agreed to hold workshops on the spam issue partially because so many of its more than 150 members were blocked.

As a result of the workshops, Chinese providers agreed to address the Internet security problems that cause the computers to be hijacked, and said they would collect spam e-mails in an effort to find their true origins.

“I’d say an understanding of these issues improved considerably,” Mr. Crocker said.

Not everyone is getting the message. China Telecom, the state-owned provider and the largest Internet provider in China, generally has not responded to spam complaints because it has received no instruction from the Chinese government to address the problem, Mr. Crocker said.

In the instances where the company has cracked down, it has done so in ways that have hindered those trying to send legitimate messages to a large group of people, analysts said.

For instance, it has been known to automatically block all e-mail that goes to more than 25 addresses.

“They are continuing to be difficult,” Mr. Crocker said. “They have the exact same attitude on this topic as some other government-controlled entities, which is that they won’t do anything until the mother tells them to.”

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