RealTime IT News

Hotmail Seeks to Rein-in Spammers

Moving to curb MSN Hotmail's use as a platform for spammers, Microsoft earlier this month reduced the maximum number of e-mails users can send in a 24-hour period.

"In an effort to prevent spammers from using Hotmail to spread spam, MSN Hotmail recently began further limiting the number of messages a user can send to e-mail contacts each day," said Lisa Gurry, MSN lead product manager. "MSN is strongly committed to helping stop the widespread problem of spam and this change is one way we are preventing spammers from using Hotmail as a vehicle to send the unwanted e-mails. The change was implemented on March 12 and is in place for free users of Hotmail only. MSN Extra Storage and MSN 8 subscribers are not affected by the policy."

According to reports, Microsoft reduced the maximum number of messages from 500 in a 24-hour period to 100. Gurry would not confirm those numbers, saying only, "We don't provide specific details on this limitation."

Earlier this year, Microsoft adopted another restriction to the offering which prevents users from sending mail to more than 50 different addresses at a time. The company has also turned to the courts to help it track down spammers, and it maintains an internal "blocklist" of known spammers.

Spam has been an exploding epidemic on the Internet, with some reports suggesting that almost a quarter of all e-mail in corporate inboxes is spam. Federal law has not dealt with spam, though both legislators and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are attempting to develop proposals for managing and regulating it.

In the meantime, Washington, D.C.-based polling firm Public Opinion Strategies has conducted a national survey that found that 9 out of 10 respondents called for stiffer regulations on what is considered a scourge on their professional work time.

The survey was conducted in December of 2002 and then again in January of 2003, and was commissioned by Scotts Valley, Calif.-based SurfControl, a Web and e-mail filtering company.

That same percentage of pollsters said they would support legislation that restricts pornographic spam, and that criminal penalties for spam that contains misleading or false information should be enacted.

The survey also found that 68 percent of those polled who use a computer at work to retrieve e-mail believed that legislation alone would not solve the problem and that lawmakers needed to supplement their efforts with technology in order to eliminate spam in the workplace.

The data from the first survey contained information from 1,400 respondents, however, only 841 of those respondents were employed outside of the home, and only 488 were employed outside of the home and used e-mail and the Internet at work.

Data from the second survey, which was conducted entirely by SurfControl and was culled from 1,065 members of the IT community, showed that 95 percent of those surveyed felt strongly that anti-spam legislation should be enacted, but not without the aid of technology.

Microsoft, through its Hotmail and MSN Internet services, has about 120 million e-mail customers. It employs spam filtering software and services from San Francisco-based Brightmail to help protect those users from spam.