Massive spam volumes causing ISP delays

Via Steve Champeon‘s daily links, the following spam-in-the-news stories illustrate a rising trend:

Huge amounts of spam are said to be responsible for delays in the email network of NZ ISP Xtra.

Several customers have vented their frustrations on an Xtra website message board saying some emails were days late, The New Zealand Herald reports.

… Record volumes of spam meant such problems would be “an unfortunate and on-going reality of the internet not specific to any provider”, he said.

Mr Bowler said Telecom had invested “tens of millions of dollars” in email and anti-spam software and worked closely with two of the world’s leading anti-spam vendors.

Holiday spam e-mails are to blame for slowing message delivery to faculty and staff in schools across Kentucky …

“Some 123-reg customers may have experienced intermittent delays in their emails in the last two weeks. We had received a particularly high level of image-based spam attacks over a short period of time,” the Pipex subsidiary said.

Small businesses are threatening legal action over continuing glitches with Xtra’s email service and the Consumers’ Institute says they may have a case.

Several people have contacted the Herald complaining that delays and non-deliveries of emails over the past three weeks on the Xtra network are severely affecting their businesses. …

The institute’s David Russell said home users could claim compensation for email delays if they had suffered “a real measurable loss”.

Non-commercial customers were covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act and services they paid for had to be of a “reasonable quality”.

Although it might be more difficult for small business owners, they could also have a case, Mr Russell said. “If there has been a considerable amount of money, they could consider legal action or, if the amount was smaller, they could go through the disputes tribunal.”

In other words, the DDOS-like elements of the spam problem are becoming an increasing worry; even with working spam filtering in place, the record size of zombie botnets means that spammers can now destroy organisations’ computing infrastructure, almost accidentally.

Spammers don’t care if an organisation’s infrastructure collapses while they’re sending their spam to it — they just want to maximise exposure of their spam, by any means necessary. If that requires knocking a company off the air entirely for a while, so be it.

I’m not sure what can be done about this, in terms of filtering. It may finally be time to fall back to a “side channel” of trusted, authenticated SMTP peers, and leave the spam-filled world of random email from people and organisations you don’t know to one side, as a lower-priority system which can (and will, frequently) collapse, without affecting the ‘important’ stuff. What a mess. :(

Alternatively, maybe it’s time for governments to start putting serious money into botnet-spam-related arrests and prosecution.

This has additional issues for ISPs, too, btw — I wonder if Earthlink are taking note of that Xtra lawsuit story above….

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  1. Posted December 27, 2006 at 15:59 | Permalink

    Force9/ in the UK have been reporting an ongoing DDOS like spam run for several weeks now. Their RSS feed says they’ve been bringing on more MXs and processing nodes every few days to handle the load. Interestingly enough, they say that it’s only against a few of their users, not everyone.

    (F9/PN being an ISP that offer your own wild-carded subdomain, so [email protected] works.)

  2. Posted January 5, 2007 at 21:59 | Permalink

    I am actually turning off email-based registration confirmation at another service specifically because of this.