Another thing invented by lawyers

[Dave Birch] Over at SecureID News, Daniel Butler was asking whether digital identity can curb spam. Apart from reminding me that the first ever Internet e-mail spam came from a couple of lawyers in Phoenix — who in April 1994 hired a programmer to post a message advertising their services around the U.S. green card lottery to thousands of newsgroups — it also made me reflect yet again on why nothing is happening. The most obvious way forward would be to use encryption and signing: since both S/MIME and SSLv3 were standardised many years ago (in fact it’s difficult to buy a mail package or web server that doesn’t have them) it’s a puzzle that we don’t use them. Requiring all e-mail to be digitally-signed, and instructing mail servers to throw away any mail that didn’t have a valid signature, would be an obvious way to stop spam from reaching inboxes, because it raises the cost of sending a spam e-mail from zero to very little: but that’s enough.

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