Spamhaus.org, an organization that tracks and analyzes spam traffic, has fingered Microsoft as the fifth most spammer-friendly e-mail service in the world.
The problem has to do with spammers using Microsoft’s Live services as a portal to send their unwanted messages. Spamhaus officials say they have repeatedly notified Microsoft that it should block those spam avenues — but without any response.
“We have gone to enormous lengths to try to get this to Microsoft’s attention,” Richard Cox, Spamhaus.org’s CIO, told InternetNews.com. “Every time there is a [spam] incident, there is an e-mail that is sent to Microsoft automatically [but] they’ve just ignored them.”
For its part, Microsoft said it does all it can to shut down spammers.
“Using Windows Live services for spam is explicitly prohibited by the terms of service, and Windows Live accounts that are found to be used by spammers are aggressively removed,” John Scarrow, general manager of safety services at Microsoft, said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.
But while spam and malware have long been persistent threats, ISPs, e-mail services and Web hosts continue wrestling with the issue — and aside from occasional victories, gain little ground. Meanwhile, the spammers themselves continue making headway with ever-more sophisticated tactics: Google in August reported seeing a massive surge in spam activity that it blamed on overworked antispam filters.
In Microsoft’s case, the problems apparently emanate from Microsoft’s Windows Live Spaces and other Windows Live services. Spam and scams sent out from the sites run the gamut, according to Spamhaus.
Using the services, “someone can send spam supporting illegal [prescription] drug sales,” Cox said. He also noted the notorious “419” scam, wherein a fraudster claims to have millions they’re trying to spirit out of their country — and they’ll cut you in if you pony up some cash to help the transaction along.
Microsoft responded that it’s not the Windows Live services themselves that are to blame, but the spammers themselves.
“Spam and other abuse scenarios are not Microsoft-specific,” Scarrow said. “Microsoft offers Windows Live, a suite of software and services that provides opportunities for customers to post and share their own content through Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live SkyDrive and other free services.”
“As such, spammers have multiple avenues to target consumers with malicious activities,” he added.
The company did not say whether it plans specific activities to address the allegations by Geneva-based Spamhaus, which since 1998 has been tracking spam operations, maintaining blacklists of suspected spammers or compromised mailservers and working with public officials to target online scammers.
Microsoft also has taken recent steps to combat online scams. Last month, the company teamed up with Yahoo and several banks to take on lottery scams that, like the 419 scam, makes up a significant proportion of online spam.
Even though the distinction is a dubious one, Microsoft is not the only recognizable name on Spamhaus.org’s top ten list. Coming in at No. 9 is Verizon, according to Spamhaus’ statistics current as of press time.