Holding The Internet Accountable

PALM DESERT, Calif. — The non-stop praise and huzzahs took a brief time
out here at the DEMO
conference, where dozens of new technology presenters have been regularly
applauded and praised.

Late Wednesday, Tom Gillis, senior vice president of
worldwide marketing at security provider IronPort, sounded the alarm on the
growing problem of spam and viruses and said ISPs needed to shoulder more responsibility.

Tom Gillis

Tom Gillis

Source: IronPort

Gillis wasn’t at DEMO to show off a new product
or service; he was interviewed on stage by show producer Chris Shipley who
wanted to hear more about IronPort’s remarkable success story. A startup
that debuted its first product in 2003 at the DEMO conference, IronPort was
purchased by Cisco  last month for $830 million.

Gillis said the company’s original vision, when it formed in 2000,
was to address the growing problem of e-mail spam. Now as part of Cisco,
IronPort continues to provide anti-spam, as well as broader Web security
solutions. But Gillis said ISPs will have to do more if spam, malware
 and other Web security issues are ever going to be
addressed comprehensively.

“Those that control the servers need to be held accountable for the
content they are spewing,” said Gillis. “It’s like pollution, but they don’t
bear the cost of cleaning it up.”

Instead, Gillis said users and security companies have to deal with the
digital mess. “The current solutions [e.g. filtering] aren’t going to
scale.” For example, he noted that the amount of spam keeps
doubling annually, so filter accuracy has to reach higher and higher levels
just to keep up.

Later Wednesday evening at a press Q&A, Gillis expanded on his remarks.
“You have to infuse accountability into the Internet itself,” he said. “The
current approach of filtering isn’t going to work.”

Computer industry veteran Mitchell Kurtzman (former CEO of Liberate
and Powersoft) agreed with Gillis’ call for more accountability. He also
said he favored tightening some of the freedom Web users take for granted.

“Users will have to give up some of their anonymity for us to get to a safer Internet,” Kurtzman, now a partner in the Hummer Winblad venture capital firm, told internetnews.com. “Someone can be anonymous online, but some [law enforcement or government entity] should be able to find out their identity if they’ve done anything illegal.”

Gillis said it’s “incredibly easy” for someone to shed their identity on
the Web and jump to another server where they continue spamming or engage in
other illicit activity. “But if we start the mechanisms to identify all
senders, it will make it a lot harder” to hide.

“Right now there’s no incentive for the ISPs to stop [spammers, etc.], so
they don’t bother,” said Gillis. “They need great tools.”

Asked what company had the best chance of defeating spam and other
security issues, Gillis said he thought it was a winner-take-all scenario
where only the biggest, resource-rich companies would ultimately succeed.

Not surprisingly, he feels IronPort is in the driver’s seat with the
resources of Cisco behind it. “Microsoft  is very
serious about the space and Symantec  is also large
and well capitalized,” said Gillis.

Symantec previewed its Identity Client earlier in the day; part of what it called its
“Security 2.0” vision of new security products and services.

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