TECH TALK: The Death and Rebirth of Email: Email Tales

BBC: The e-mail traffic generated by Sobig F is threatening to swamp some corporate networks that are already struggling to cope with the Welchi worm that scans for fresh hosts many times faster than last weeks MSBlast virus. Like the earlier versions of Sobig, the virus spreads by e-mail and by exploiting unsecured network links between Windows PCs.

New York Times: Sobig began appearing Tuesday, just a week after a separate virus, Blaster, wreaked havoc on computer systems across the world. A variant of the Blaster virus fouled signaling and dispatching systems at CSX Corp., on Wednesday, a day after similar troubles brought down Air Canadas check-in systems. Sobig does not physically damage computers, files or critical data, but it tied up computer and networking resources, forcing networks like the University of Wisconsin-Madison to shut down outside access to its e-mail system Wednesday.

Kevin Werbach in a post entitled The Day Email Died?: Between 10:45pm last night and 6am this morning, I received 1,470 pieces of spam (a run rate of nearly 5,000 per day). Most of them were from the SoBig worm, which seems to be the worst yet. And as far as I can tell, it’s still getting worseWe have to confront the reality: either email is broken, Microsoft’s email software is broken, or those two statements are the same. If it’s the middle statement, Microsoft and other vendors can close holes and improve filtering in their products. Email itself isn’t going to change. It’s too widely deployed. I still think a combination of steps will tame the spam epidemic, but we’re not there yet.

Dave Winer in a series of posts over successive days: This morning 650 messages accumulated overnight, and my email program, Outlook Express, one which millions of people use, can’t download them without crapping outOver 800 messages accumulated in my mailbox, and my mailer is incapable of dealing with it. So if you sent me mail, I probably won’t get it until tomorrow afternoonOver 2000 messages are waiting. Perhaps its time to give up on the mail client software I’ve been usingEmail is still broken. I’m trying Eudora, it seems to work a little better than Outlook Express, but of course it’s totally strange and all my filters are goneIn the meantime I’m missing boatloads of email.

Microdoc: The way we have developed the Internet is creating the biggest economic, social and cultural time-bomb of the century. We have become dependent on email, Microsoft and now Google, none of us realizing that, through widespread public support of highly popular solutions we are actually creating opportunities for what we have built to be torn down. The problem with email is that every email client works much the same way regardless of who constructed it, that widespread damage can be done by relatively few to so many. Because we have a world where software is made by Microsoft, and it works relatively the same the world over, we have created huge gaping holes for people in any society of the world to bring down the masses. To allow the Internet to survive, we need to embrace diversity, to make it near impossible for a single worm to create havoc the world over.

Dan Gillmor: What will come from this crisis? I think we may be on the verge of the next transformation — from e-mail to other kinds of communications that will make life harder (but, sadly, not impossible) for the spammers and vandals who prey on the Net’s openness. You want to reach me? Unfortunately it’s getting more difficult unless I’ve given you a private e-mail address, my instant messaging signon or my mobile phone numberNo doubt, if another OS had 95 percent (or more) market share, there would be some of the same problems. Two points: First, Microsoft has flat-out refused to use its illegally gained profits sufficiently to stop this. Second, Windows is a monoculture. Ask any biologist about monocultures, and you’ll be told of the extreme danger they represent. The U.S. government’s willingness — eagerness — to help Microsoft keep and extend its monopoly is part of the dangerThis can’t go on. The next worm or virus may be a real disaster, not just an enormous pain in the butt. It’s a matter of time.

You get the idea!

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TECH TALK The Death and Rebirth of Email+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.