Toronto to host global forum on abuse of messaging technology

A global consortium of communications firms will hold a members-only meeting next week in Toronto to discuss the latest attacks affecting all types of messaging services from e-mail to voice over IP to instant messaging.

Called the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), the coalition is made up of Canadian ISPs such as Bell Canada and Telus, e-mail software vendors such as ThinData, which joined this week, and software giant Microsoft, which joined last March. MAAWG, which is based in San Francisco, relies on its members’ expertise to combat what it calls “abuse” or attacks on existing networks and new and emerging services such as VoIP.

Charles Stiles, co-vice chair of MAAWG and postmaster at AOL, which is also a member, said members as well as guests such as provincial and federal government officials will talk about the most recent spam attacks and methods being used by spammers. Stiles declined to specify which government officials will attend its eigth annual general meeting on Oct. 24.

“We’ll also talk about what we as members of MAAWG are doing to combat the spam and sharing tips, tricks and ideas on how we can best do that and protect our consumers,” said Stiles.

Today, spam attacks are delivered through compromised machines that have been affected by malware or viruses as opposed to IP addresses that had been purchased by spammers that would send out their mail from there.

“They turn (the machines) into bot networks,” said Stiles, adding that the content of spam has changed dramatically over the years. “It’s very specialized and they’re really attacking you specifically.”

Matthew Vernhout, director of deliverability and ISP relations at Toronto-based ThinData, said his company will be participating in MAAWG’s regular work group discussions around preventing abuse on the Internet.

“We felt that it was part of our role to be involved in that and to lead the Canadian marketplace with regards to being involved with an organization like MAAWG,” he said.

Vernhout, a former member of the Canadian Anti-Spam Task Force (2004-2005), said groups like MAAWG are similar in that they all discuss where the problems are coming from and what to do to prevent them.

“Many of the things that the task force talked about and discussed are also discussed in MAAWG,” said Vernhout. “It’s not just a Canadian issue. It is a global issue.”

ThinData will also become involved in a sender sub-committee, which is made up of a number of different e-mail senders and service providers.

“Building connections with ISPs in the community is something that is very important for us to help maximize deliverability for our clients,” said Vernhout.

Stiles said MAAWG doesn’t want to be the arbitrator of any law and it doesn’t consider itself a standards body.

“We will go out and try to educate lawmakers the status of what the industry is so they can help us to make good decisions and they in turn can make good decisions,” he said.

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