Hello DKIM, Good-bye Spam?
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The battle against spam has been going on for about a decade. It has mutated into a variety of different forms as spammers and spam blockers have engaged in an arms race. Now the spam blockers may have come up with a knockout punch. It’s called DomainKeys Identified Mail, and it could mean a much cleaner inbox.
It couldn’t come at a better time. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, nearly 24,000 phishing scams were reported in the U.S. in February 2007 alone. They make up a fairly diverse lot, with more than 100 brands being forged. And while phishing and spam are not the same thing (and DKIM will do more against phishing than spam, at least at first), the two are related. To take one anecdotal example of how bad the spam problem is, Dale Dougherty of O’Reilly noted in March of this year that, according to “a one-week snapshot,” 95 percent of all of the incoming messages to his company are spam.
Yahoo has been working on a solution to the spam and phishing problem since at least 2003, when it introduced the core DomainKeys technology. By 2004, the company was signing all of its outgoing mail with DomainKeys as well as verifying all incoming mail. By 2005, over 300 million email messages a day were going through this verification at Yahoo alone.
Mark Delano of Yahoo, Russ Nelson of qmail, Eric Allman of Sendmail and John R. Levine of the ASRG were involved in DomainKey’s creation. The U.S. patent, number 6,986,049, was assigned to Yahoo. In late May, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) approved DomainKeys Identified Mail as a proposed standard, RFC 4871. This move lends an extra layer of legitimacy to the email authentication framework, and will help give the system an edge over Microsoft’s proposed Sender ID system.
With this nod from the IETF, Yahoo and the other companies involved in DKIM’s creation plan to work with ISPs, enterprises, e-commerce organizations, financial institutions and yes, the open source community to ensure that the specification is quickly adopted and incorporated into many future products. Other supporters of the DKIM standard include AOL, EarthLink, IBM, VeriSign, IronPort Systems, Cox Communications and Trend Micro.
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