Usenet Death Penalty Called for @Home

Everybody loves broadband — including, apparently, spammers.

The @Home cable modem service in
particular has become a haven for junk
advertisers, according to opponents of unsolicited commercial messages in
newsgroups and e-mail. Not only do spammers appreciate the speed at which
@Home connection can upload their junk mailings. They especially like taking
advantage of a characteristic of the @Home network known as proxies, which
enable spammers essentially to steal the Internet protocol address of
another user and thus avoid detection.

The situation has gotten so bad that newsgroup administrators have called
for a Usenet Death Penalty against @Home if the company doesn’t correct the
problem by the end of Jan. 18. Once a UDP is in effect,
participating newsgroup administrators will cancel any newsgroup messages
coming from @Home users.

“It will be felt around the world,” said David Ritz, a self-appointed
newsgroup despammer and Internet user in Milwaukee, Wis., who’s
organizing the @Home UDP.

@Home officials were not immediately available.

Ritz says the decision to issue the block is a desperate but necessary
measure because @Home has refused to deal with the problem, or even
communicate about it. Should the UDP go into effect next week, tens of
thousands of news servers will process the cancels, and @Home users
posts will not appear on these machines. EarthLink Network Inc. and America Online Inc. do not
honor cancel requests, so their newsgroup servers will show postings from
@Home users.

In the past, UDPs have effectively forced big providers such as Compuserve
and UUnet to change their practices to avoid the block. But in the
case of @Home, Ritz and other advocates of the Usenet Death Penalty
acknowledge that closing the proxy loophole against spammers may be
expensive to @Home and require hardware upgrades.

One person feeling no mercy is Scott Greczkowski, founder and moderator of
the Connecticut
@Home Users Group. He said even though it will mean a loss of service
to users, he’s telling the group’s 250 members to support the UDP as a way
to coax @Home to be a better Internet citizen.

“They warned them and warned them, but @Home ignored the messages like they
didn’t even come in. That’s the whole problem here,” said Greczkowski. If
they lose full newsgroup service as a result of the UDP service, he said
@Home subscribers should demand refunds from their cable providers, although
he admits that cable companies aren’t to blame.

“They’re going to look like the bad guys and accept all the complaint calls,
but their hands are tied in this.”

Ritz concedes two Canadian providers who offer @Home to their
subscribers, Rogers and Shaw, are generally quite responsive to complaints
about newsgroup spam, but they too will come under the @Home UDP.

The most recent UDP was instituted in December against the two biggest ISPs
in India, VSNL and SILNET. A user there was disrupting newsgroups around the
world by issuing what are called “rogue” cancels. The ISPs quickly responded
to the UDP by blocking the appropriate port on their newsgroup servers, and
the UDP was lifted.

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