The fight against junk email

Most of you know Spam: that edible (some would disagree) meat product that miraculously fits into a rectangular can with a key, and is served around the world for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spam of a different sort has been in the news a lot lately, as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) fight what has become a serious problem: electronic junk mail.

Dubbed “spam” after a Monty Python comedy sketch (where a restaurant serves Spam with everything) electronic junk mail is now routinely sent out in mass quantities to millions of recipients. ISPs are getting annoyed, as their clients (you and me) are complaining about unwanted junk email, which is often sent by companies with dubious pedigrees. Since spammers cloak their real identity with fake return email addresses, it takes a lot of good old detective work to find the real source of a spam campaign.

A recent story from the U.S. shows that spam’s days may be numbered. Last May, an ISP called Juno filed a lawsuit claiming that several spammers forged its name in unsolicited commercial email. Juno said one of the spammers had sent out millions of unsolicited bulk email messages that advertise, among other things, sexuallexplicit videotapes. The suit alleged the spammers harmed Juno’s reputation and infringed on its trademark.

Last week, the company tracked down the culprit, by cross-referencing thousands of pieces of email to find the common elements. They located the spammer at a home in Brooklyn, where they served him with a lawsuit instead of spam and eggs.