The spam challenge must be met on several fronts; part of the key to solving this problem lies in establishing adequate global legislation. Being an Internet supplier and mobile operator, Telenor has identified four key areas in our struggle against spam. We must:
- provide information and advice to customers on sensible web use.
- supply efficient and precise filters that eliminate spam.
- take special measures to protect children.
- take action against PC's that abuse the Telenor network to distribute spam.
Spam - the seventh plague
As Norway's largest email supplier, Telenor has first-hand knowledge of the challenges associated with spam - its extent and character. Surveys show that around 79 per cent of all customers with email addresses receive spam every month. 65 per cent receive spam on a daily basis. Telenor email customers receive more than 20 million unwanted spam mails every week.
Spam reduces productivity
For businesses, spam implies a considerable loss of productivity, as employees spend their working hours handling unwanted mail. Additional are costs associated with internal IT support, bandwidth, storage and capacity on company servers. Surveys conducted by Telenor show that 20-40 per cent of all e-mails received by Norwegian companies are spam.
Insufficient knowledge in Norwegian companies
It is Telenor's experience that relatively few Norwegian companies actually have sufficient knowledge of the quantities of spam sent to their company. An important reason for this is the lack of tools and methods with which to quantify the problem and thereby the costs associated with spam for the individual company.
Only a marginal part of the spam that plagues Telenor customers stems from Norway. The by far largest share is developed by US companies and is distributed via players in Asia.
Informing our customers
Telenor has an important role to play in providing customers with information and training relevant to the spam problem. Adequate information on what spam actually is, advice and practical tips that reduce the risk of being attacked, as well as information about the alternative ways of eliminating spam, is important in the fight against this nuisance.
Telenor supplies efficient spam filters at a reasonable price
In March 2003, Telenor launched a spam filter service for Telenor e-mail customers in both the residential and business markets. The filter is easy to use, and no installation or updating is required at the customer's end. The Telenor spam filter is a centrally administered service, and Telenor is responsible for updating the filter to include the most recent blocking measures against spam attacks. The filter is high-end, and keeps 8-9 out of 10 spam mails from ending up in users' mailboxes. In total, the spam filter kills off some two million spam mails each week (October 2003). It is important that the spam filters do not throw out genuine emails. Telenor filters show a very low error rate (approximately 1:1 million). The solutions developed by Telenor are based on anti-spam software from leading suppliers.
Children and spam
Telenor has now relaunched Kidsurf, a product that makes the Internet safe for children to explore. Kidsurf allows children to surf the Internet within the boundaries set by their parents, and this makes it different from all other solutions designed to shield children from harmful web content. Spam that displays pornographic material is a major problem, and Kidsurf is designed to only let users receive mail from senders that are approved by the parents.
Spam on mobile handsets
Spam in the form of unwanted SMS messages to mobile terminals has so far been a limited problem. Most of the cases we've seen can quickly be traced back to the sender. On some occasions, Telenor has requested that operators in individual countries track down the source of such spam messages to put an end to the problem.
Telenor is still working proactively with these issues to prevent a negative development in this area.
Global solutions to a global challenge
Spam that pollutes the Internet is a global problem and requires global solutions. The new spam legislation introduced in the EU/EEA this autumn is an important step towards achieving a joint European effort in this area. Norwegian authorities should press on with initiatives to strengthen the efforts directed at limiting the amount of unwanted email, and lobby for stricter legislation in the US. The EU commission and the EU countries are important partners in this field.
It is also important that the entire industry and all Internet suppliers assume their responsibility to protect their customers from spam.