a note to those who would automate their rejection notices

Paul Vixie paul at vix.com
Sat Dec 27 20:23:49 UTC 2003

>     pv> of the foundational principles which made the internet
>     pv> possible and which made it different from alternatives such as
>     pv> OSI, very few remain.
> Would SPF <http://spf.pobox.com/> be a bit less destructive than many
> other proposals to counter "trivial forgery".

No.  Nor will Yahoo's recently announced technology make any real difference.
Preventing forgery is a way of protecting domain names as "service marks" and
also ensuring that your own or your customers' non-spam output isn't snared
in a bunch of false-positive trappery.  But it won't stop or even slow the
rate at which spam is sent or is received.  Spammers still lie, but they are
no longer as dumb as fence posts, and they can register throw-away domains
whose crypto-authenticity is completely valid, even in the presence of wide
scale wormspoor-proxy usage.

It could be that I'm just especially irritable this year, or it could be that
the reinvention frequency of bad ideas really is growing at the same rate as
the internet's population.

I no longer think that E-mail as we know it will survive.  But I would be
less irritable about it if the people who keep proposing to "save" it would
(a) do their homework, (b) assume that spammers are going to try to adapt,
and (c) think about the side effects of the tools they deploy.  This is
information warfare.  "Warfare."  You aren't fighting the terrain or the
elements or some mindless bacteria.  You're fighting other humans, and they
are armed, committed, dangerous, and adaptive.  In that light, I look at
things like Bayesian filters or Vipul's Razor and I wonder, why is the "D"
in Vern's DCC (see www.rhyolite.com/dcc) so difficult to predict a need for?

(Y'all already know my views on relay-probing without spam-in-hand, but the
tie-in here is "how can you fight spam if your principles aren't different
from the people you're fighting? where exactly do you think it will end?")

Anyway, I hope folks will stop sending automated rejection notices to domains
who were not involved, other than by forgery, in the transmission of a virus
or spam.  In other words, there's relevant operational content in this thread,
and when "fighting" spam it would be reasonable to avoid hurting uninvolved
third parties.  AOL, please listen.

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