Don't talk to strangers

Agencies can reduce spam by setting up e-mail registration databases.

Agency officials can avoid spam and viruses by requiring e-mail senders to wear name tags.

Until now, e-mail servers delivered messages unless the senders were listed on a spam

filter's block list. Users also have the option, in some cases, of opting out of a sender's mailing list.

For agency officials who are concerned about spam, another option is available, said Robert Cook, chairman and chief executive officer of Sigaba, a secure messaging company.

Agencies could build communities of trust in which individuals or organizations must register before their messages go through. Such an approach would filter unwanted e-mail and, perhaps just as important, reduce the risk of viruses.

People would become members of such communities by submitting a general identifier and choosing a personal identification number, Cook said.

Additionally, e-mail within this community would be encrypted, making it difficult for spammers to intercept addresses from data packets.

"The good news is that this could all be done with technologies we have at hand now," he said.

Other sources say the idea has merit, but they see some pitfalls. One problem with communities of trust is that they don't deal with the need to get e-mail messages from strangers, said David Wheeler, an antispam expert who has written about the subject.

"Otherwise, it means no opportunities for new business," he said. "You need a certain openness

for that."

Cook has been shopping his idea for several months and said he has generated good interest, but he admits it will take awhile to fully understand the concept. "There's still the general mind-set of keeping people out as opposed to including them in," he said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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