ESPC Unveils Project Lumos for Eradicating Spam

Experts agree that the root of the spam problem is a lack of secure identity and accountability in email, and the Email Service Provider Coalition thinks it has a solution.

On Monday, the ESPC announced a set of technical specifications and requirements for the development of a robust system designed to eradicate spam by provides Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and others with a means of securely identifying and authenticating email senders.

Trevor Hughes, executive director of the Email Service Provider Coalition, explained that the registry approach, named Project Lumos, is an architecture that works for everyone, including ISPs, users, and legitimate mailers that do not want their emails accidentally deleted or incorrectly identified as spam.

By calling for full and secure disclosure of sender identity, Project Lumos allows ISPs to monitor and track the quality of mail senders, thereby ensuring that these senders are held accountable for their sending practices and the content of their messages. Aware that spam causes ISPs to incur enormous financial costs and wasted time, the ESPC has designed Project Lumos so that it can be implemented in less than twelve months with existing technologies and a commitment by the leading email senders and service providers.

"One of my primary goals is to ensure that the end of spam doesn't mean the end of commercial email for small business and non-profits, said Margaret Olson, CTO Roving Software and a co-author of the specifications white paper. "Some of the solutions out there would mean just that. The Project Lumos solution to spam is practical and cost effective. Its policies are objective and automatic based on rules that apply to everyone."

The fight against spam has been highly challenging, in large part because most unsolicited commercial email is untraceable. Project Lumos addresses this problem by requiring mail senders to authenticate their identity, holding senders accountable for all their email practices and differentiating legitimate senders from illegitimate ones. Through Project Lumos, senders are verified with secure certification and are issued electronic credentials and records. This enables ISPs to closely monitor the sender's mail and "score" the sender based upon their performance, effectively quantifying their "reputation." Because each sender is easily identifiable, ISPs have the ability to respond directly to senders not adhering to the ISPs' spam regulations, and users can easily report unwanted mail and confidently opt-out of email correspondence.

"While there have been endless attempts at blocking spam with technology that 'guesses' which email is good and which is bad, Project Lumos takes a different approach by spelling out how we eradicate this plague at the infrastructure level," said Hans Peter Brondmo, SVP at Digital Impact and co-author of the white paper. "If email is to survive, we can no longer allow anonymous senders to blast billions of unsolicited emails pushing pornography and bigger body parts. Project Lumos lays out a practical and cost effective means of making it impossible for spammers to operate in their deceptive and abusive manner without accountability."

ESPC is encouraging reviews, recommendations, and comments from the industry. For information and to download the white paper, visit

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