Peak SBC, LLC  



Big Brother II is Here!

by: Cary Christian

There is a new threat stalking your business as you read this!  You may or may not have been victimized by this threat to this point because you can fall victim without even knowing it.  If you haven't been hit yet, chances are good that you will be in one form or another.

I'm not talking about a virus or hacker attack. In fact, the authors of this threat claim to have your best interests in mind. So just who or what am I talking about?

We all hate spam. The Internet would be a much nicer place to work if there were no spam. All it does is use up a tremendous amount of bandwidth and aggravate us to death. I'm for getting rid of it. You're for getting rid of it. The desire to rid the Net of spam is almost universal. But there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. I want to update you on one of the wrong ways.

Some ISPs have begun using software to filter your email as you send it and before you receive it. The software works by comparing emails to a database of words, groups of words and phrases, formats used in the email, and a variety of other triggers that, according to the authors of the software, signify the message is spam. The problem is in the definitions used and the manner in which the software is being implemented.

A week or so ago a very well respected Internet marketer who would never consider using spam was wondering why she had received only 4 emails the entire week. She normally received hundreds. She found out this new spam blocking software had been installed by her ISP. Included in the blocked email were a letter from her sister regarding family matters, communications from business associates, membership related materials and research materials she had ordered and paid for.

She was unsubscribed from programs because her email address bounced, lost business because people she was working with thought she had abandoned them, lost subscribers, lost bids on jobs because they never got through, and suffered embarrassment because budding business relationships were cut off when she seemingly disappeared. Even emails to her ISP to try to resolve the problem were blocked!

If you take a look at the types of things some of these spam blockers look for, you will understand why these problems occur.  Here are some examples of things the software looks for:

> Talks about a check or money order.
> Contains a line longer than or equal to 199 characters long.
> Contains the words "print out and fax."
> Contains the word "amazing."
> Contains the word "profits."
> Discusses money making.
> Contains a toll free number.
> Talks about opting in.
> Talks about social security numbers.
> Incorporates a tracking ID number.
> Tells you to click on a URL.
> Asks you for your signature on a form.
> Link to a URL containing "unsubscribe."
> Microsoft FrontPage used to create the message.
> Message text is over 500 lines long.

And much, much more. Many of the business emails between our clients and us would be blocked based just on the above. Email invoices and shipping confirmations would be blocked. Sending an income statement to a colleague would be blocked. Support emails to our clients, subscribers and others would be blocked.  Legitimate newsletters with double opt-in subscribers will be blocked. Emails from affiliate programs you belong to will be blocked. Payment notifications will be blocked. Safelists and newsgroups will be dead. Sending requested information to your customers will be impossible. You get the picture.

The real problem here is that people have decided spam can be defeated using a list of words. This is just plain STUPID!  Sure, some of the items in the lists are found in spam. But many of them are also found in everyday communications between people who have business or personal relationships and want to send email to each other.

The bottom line is that this type of software does not work.  The tasks it performs are no different than the filters your email client provides. I receive more than 10,000 emails a day but they do not create a problem for me because I use my own filters. Everyone should. But an ISP should not be implementing filters on the server side that give you no choice in what you receive and what you do not. Especially without
telling you about it!

We are joining with other companies that do business on the Internet to attempt to limit the damage these types of programs can do to legitimate businesses. We hope you will join us, too.  If you become aware of this type of software being used by your ISP, please let us know. We plan to contact all such ISPs to explain to them the types of problems they can unknowingly create and to attempt to help them find a way to work around these issues.

Please don't take this situation lightly. In the end, accomplished spammers will find a way to beat this type of system anyway. Then, only legitimate businesses will be harmed.

Copyright (c) 2002


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