February 22, 2005 5:47 PM PST

China joins forum on curbing spam

As European and Asian policymakers meet in London this week to discuss how their regions can work together, the spam that continues to hinder e-commerce and plague businesses worldwide tops their list of concerns.

Among those taking part in the two-day ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) event hosted by the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry are representatives of the DTI itself, EU member states, Asian partner countries including China, Japan and Korea, and members of the technology industry and antispam groups such as Spamhaus.

Jean-Jacques Sahel, head of international communications policy at the DTI, told Silicon.com: "This event will enable us to look at how spam has increasingly become a criminal problem, with e-mails carrying viruses and Trojans which lead to problems such as phishing."

Raising the most cause for optimism is the presence of Chinese representatives, who the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry admit have been conspicuously absent from previous talks.

China remains one of the largest contributors to the worldwide spam epidemic, second only to the United States.

Richard Cox from Spamhaus said countries such as Russia and China still act as "havens for spammers" and, although the United States produces most spam, Asia is increasingly playing a part in the routing of bulk mail.

Sahel warned that "spammers can move around and change location" and said the cooperation of all Asian countries is required to make future initiatives effective and limit the places left to run and hide.

"India could come into the top 10 list of world spammers very soon if we aren't careful," he added.

Michael Colao, director of information strategy at investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, has little time for much of the antispam regulation that has been drawn up and criticized governments' lack of tech-savvy.

Speaking in London at the recent Computer and Internet Crime Conference, Colao said governments have responded to the problem of spam "with a variety of bad legislation."

"Governments don't really understand technology as a rule," he added.

The DTI's Sahel said he is aware of the work yet to be done and acknowledged that to date talk of the problems hasn't led to workable solutions.

"There have been far too many conferences like this already and there has been too much talking," he said.

"There is a good feeling about this conference but we're not going to stop anything overnight," he said. "We have to follow up on our discussions and start to act on our findings."

Will Sturgeon reported for Silicon.com.

 

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