Email Coalition Launches 'Project Lumos' to Eradicate Spam

  • by April 23, 2003
With over 40% of email traffic currently being reported as spam - and that number expected to rise - one organization is proposing a new initiative to combat the problem. The Email Service Provider Coalition (ESPC), formed by the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) to provide unique and effective spam-fighting solutions, announced a blueprint for a technical architecture to eradicate spam.

The blueprint - codenamed "Project Lumos" - is a registry-based model developed to eliminate spam by holding senders accountable for the mail they send. This approach preserves legitimate emails that consumers have asked to receive - a challenge that current anti-spam filters and so-called "blacklists" fail to address.

"As the spam problem continues to worsen, the only way to fight it is to develop a means of certifying legitimate mailers, ensuring that spam is blocked and 'real' mail continues to land in users' in-boxes," said Trevor Hughes, executive director of NAI's ESPC. "With its vigorous certification and performance monitoring process, Project Lumos is an industry-wide initiative that is the most complete effort that has so far been introduced to eradicate spam."

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Project Lumos employs a certification process that stops spammers by making it impossible for high-volume mailers to conceal their identities. Project Lumos implements true sender accountability and transparency by requiring that senders fully verify their identity and adhere to best practices and then objectively monitoring their performance. This ensures that consumers can let legitimate email through while effectively curbing spam.

"Eradicating the spam plague requires that we evolve the email architecture," said Hans Peter Brondmo, SVP Strategy for Digital Impact and chair of the ESPC technology working group. "Project Lumos is not a single, fallible, 'silver-bullet' technology that can be beaten by spammers; instead it introduces trust, transparency and accountability into the fabric of email."

Historically, a number of technology and grass roots efforts have attempted to stop spam. Most of which, while blocking some spam, have also had adverse side effects. For example, filters commonly block out email that has actually been requested by the user. Blacklists, lists that are designed to keep track of known spammers, frequently flag legitimate marketers as spammers. To compound the problems, tech-savvy spammers continue to find ways to elude filters. All of which results in increasingly frustrated consumers who do not receive email they want yet continue to receive increasing amounts of spam.

Project Lumos is an open and interoperable standard and decentralized model. ESPC is proposing that it is implemented through independent operating entities, or registries. It leverages existing technologies and services to eradicate spam. It identifies four elements of accountability, all of which address essential tactics designed to delineate illegitimate high-volume mailers:

  • Certification: A verification process that ascertains the mailer's identity, thereby facilitating transparency.

  • Volume Mail Standards: A process that requires standardization of all sender info in the mail header including the use of an identifiable, trackable unsubscribe URL.

  • Secure Identity: An authentication process that provides secure proof of sender identity in the SMTP header.

  • Performance Monitoring: A process that captures, monitors, and reports performance data for all senders and mailers.

    "Spam is an ever-evolving challenge to The Excite Network, and to the entire email service provider industry. We are continually implementing new systems to help eradicate this problem," said John Kleine, CTO of The Excite Network, which owns and operates Excite and iWon. "We fully support the ESPC's efforts in spearheading the development of new and effective methods of answering this challenge. The Project Lumos architectural blueprint is one of the most comprehensive solutions that we have seen for stopping spam, while also ensuring that our users receive legitimate emails."

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