For consumers and businesses increasingly shaken by the growing onslaught of unwanted e-mail and the computer viruses and other nefarious hacking spam can bring, any hope for quick relief was soundly dashed yesterday during a government-hosted gathering of technology experts. Several executives and academics speaking at a forum sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission said criminals are already steps ahead of a major initiative by e-mail providers to counter those problems by creating a system to verify senders of e-mail, reports the Washington Post.
In theory, such an authentication system would make it harder for spammers to disguise their identities and locations in an attempt to avoid being shut down or prosecuted. But a majority of spam is launched by “zombies,” or infected personal computers that are controlled by remote spammers. E-mail from a zombie looks as if it is coming from a legitimate source. The source is simply unaware that his or her computer has been commandeered. In the first half of this year, an average of 30,000 computers a day were turned into zombies, according to the computer security firm Symantec Corp. Spam is used to deliver unwanted or fraudulent messages, viruses and other malicious software code that can allow hackers to capture private data such as credit card or bank account numbers from computers.