As technology evolves, spam does to. For those interested in careers in networking technology and security, the future looks bright and challenging.
Estimates are that 9 out of every 10 e-mails sent today are spam. While most of us complain about the number of unwanted e-mail we receive, chances are that what gets through is a far smaller percentages. That's because internet service providers (ISP) and corporate computer networks employ talented and energetic spam fighters.
Ron Cleven is the chief technology officer for USFamily, an ISP, and Velocity Telephone, a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) located in Golden Valley. When USFamily was founded in 1997, Cleven says, spam was more like junk mail: spam distributors sent advertisements for products and services (many illicit, such as "Get your cable TV free!") to purchased or harvested e-mail addresses. A high percentage of that spam could be controlled by blocking the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of the networks and servers they exploited.
Harder To Shut Down
Senders soon found ways to deliver spam without revealing their own location, making them harder to shut down. Spam is still used to sell ineffective or illegal products and services, from prescription drugs to pornography. In addition, Cleven says, "Everything I could think of them doing, they have done."
"Pump and dump" spam uses e-mail to send phony stock tips. When the stock goes up a couple of points, the spammers sell their shares as a profit, causing the stock to plunge again. Cleven says he has seen stock prices spike as a result of the spam campaigns.
"Phishing" uses e-mail masquerading from banks, credit card providers and others to fraudulently obtain financial information.
"Nigerian money fraud" promises thousands of dollars to "investors" who will help retrieve money from a foreign bank account. Cleven says one U.S. Family customer actually became angry with the ISP provider when communication with the scammer was blocked.
No End Of Challenges
Cleven says his fight against spam is "personal sometimes. My Norwegian blood can get boiling." Effective spam fighting requires "really good background in networking protocols, to understand the routing tricks spammers employ. It's going to change over and over," Cleven says.
Digitized information has evolved from e-mail to instant messaging and spam has evolved right along. Spam fighting, concludes Cleven, provides "no end of challenges."
Spamcop offers spam reporting service: www.spamcop.net. The Spamhaus Project is "working for a spam-free world": www.spamhaus.org. For more on USFamily and Velocity, go to www.usfamily.net and www.velocitytelephone.com. Inver Hills Community College offers an Associate Degree in Network Technology and Security. Visit its website: www.inverhills.edu.