Microsoft revealed yesterday that the company will merge its Caller ID for E-Mail proposal with a competing scheme for email authentication called Sender Policy Framework (SPF), which Meng Wong, Pobox.com's cofounder and chief technology officer (CTO), created. Microsoft will merge the two proposals into one specification that the company will submit to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards body for consideration as an Internet standard. Earlier, Microsoft had planned to propose Caller ID for E-Mail as a standard but had noted that the technology is complementary to similar proposals.
If adopted, the combined proposal will form the basis for technology that prevents spammers from spoofing domains and email addresses and sending email messages that appear to be from a trusted sender. Email messages from these spoofed email addresses are often used to direct users to malicious Web sites that launch so-called phishing attacks, in which users are tricked into supplying personal information such as credit card numbers and account passwords. Spoofed email is also used to deliver viruses and other electronic attacks directly to users' computers.
"The convergence of these two technical specifications is a critical step in our efforts to eliminate the spam problem and a big win for email users worldwide," Ryan Hamlin, general manager of Microsoft's Anti-Spam Technology and Strategy Group, said. "By working together with Meng Wong and the SPF community, we plan to create one technical specification that we believe the entire industry can rally around that will virtually eliminate domain spoofing and help restore user trust and value to email."
Microsoft's proposed changes to the email infrastructure are small and probably won't be disruptive. But whether such methods will have any more success against the spam plague than earlier solutions, such as antispam filters and legislation, is unclear. Some analysts believe that only a dramatic reworking of the entire email infrastructure can turn the tide against spammers.