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Spam zombies — we need to cure the disease, not suppress the symptoms

Here’s a great presentation from Joe St Sauver presented at the London Action Plan meeting recently: Infected PCs Acting As Spam Zombies: We Need to Cure the Disease, Not Just Suppress the Symptoms

Some key points in brief:

Despite all our ongoing efforts: the spam problem continues to worsen, with nine out of every ten emails now spam; spam volume has increased by 80% over just the past few months and users face a constantly morphing flood of malware trying to take over their computers. Bottom line: we’re losing the war on spam.

The root cause of today’s spam problems is spam zombies, with 85% of all spam being delivered via spam zombies.

The spam zombie problem grows worse every day (with over ninety one million new spam zombies per year)

Users don’t, won’t, or can’t clean up their infected PCs; and ISPs can’t be expected to clean up their infected customers’ PCs.

Filtering port 25 and doing rate limiting is like giving cough syrup to someone with lung cancer — it may suppress some overt symptoms but it doesn’t cure the underlying disease.

Filtered and rate-limited spam zombies CAN still be used for many, many OTHER bad things, and they represent a huge problem if left to languish in a live infected state.

Joe’s take — “we’re in the middle of a worldwide cyber crisis”. I agree. He suggests a new strategy:

It is common for universities to produce and distribute a one-click clean-up-and-secure CD for use by their students and faculty. It’s now time for our governments to produce and distribute an equivalent disk for everyone to use.

I agree the existing schemes are clearly not working; this is an interesting suggestion. Read/listen to the presentation in full for more details; pick up PDF, PPT and video here.