Spam e-mails

New system forwards them to authorities

Coming back to work after spending a sunny week on vacation is generally tough enough. But then you open your e-mail and wonder why you didn’t stay a few more days.

Sure, there are some important things to read. But these days, many people receive as much spam as they do actual correspondence.

Recently, the state of Missouri enacted an anti-spam law that aims to reduce the quantity of unsolicited commercial e-mail, or spam.

And more recently, the University’s Network Technology Services (NTS) set up a system for collecting and forwarding spam to the Missouri attorney general’s office.

Anyone receiving spam messages should forward them to NTS will then provide the messages to the attorney general’s office.

“It is clear to everyone that there is more and more spam messages in our e-mail inboxes,” said Jan Weller, assistant vice chancellor for network and library technology. “The Missouri government has passed its anti-spam act, and the Missouri attorney general’s office has started collecting spam messages to discover the source.

“As much as possible, the Missouri attorney general’s office will be prosecuting these people. It was our duty as a University to respond and contribute to this effort.”

Under provisions of the law, unsolicited commercial e-mail must have the following:

• A valid method for you to get your e-mail address removed from the sender’s list. Once you have asked to be removed, the sender must stop sending you spam.

• The characters “adv:” must be the first four characters in the subject line of all spam.

• If the e-mail contains adult-oriented material, the sender is required to have “adv:adlt” as the first eight characters in the subject line.

The law specifies penalties for violations.

“During December, NTS consulted with the Missouri attorney general’s office to coordinate the submission of spam messages,” Weller said. “NTS then set up a mail drop in a manner similar to the attorney general’s office to gather the messages and provided the information to the University’s computer system and network managers.”

The messages are counted and then forwarded on to the attorney general’s office. NTS has been collecting several thousand messages daily.

“The response has been terrific,” Weller said. “We originally sent a reply for every spam message submitted to us, but people were submitting so many messages that they didn’t want the replies as well as the spam. We ended up not replying.

“So people will not get the reply, but we are collecting and forwarding on to the Missouri attorney general’s office.”

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