MAAWG may sound like another boring technology acronym or a character out of a 70’s B film, but the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group—which held its conference last week in Washington, D.C.—is an important organization that brings together leaders from all aspects of the email messaging world. The conference featured individuals like Mike Jones (head of AOL’s anti-abuse department), representing Internet Service Providers (ISPs); email service providers (ESPs) like mobileStorm; and marketers such as Travelocity. The MAAWG conference was not just a chance to travel on the company dime; it let people collaborate and address major messaging topics such as SPAM, email virus attacks, and other forms of email abuse.
The MAAWG conference focused on several key items—the most important dealing with reputation and email delivery. What’s new is that ISPs are moving from content-based blocks and moving towards blocks based on “sender reputation.” Across the board, ISPs are adopting this idea of sender reputation in some form or another. Senders with bad reputations may not get through to the inboxprotecting end users.
Part of determining and establishing a sender’s reputation requires an identity or identification. Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) is a tool that provides a method for validating an identity that is associated with a message during the time it is transferred over the Internet. That identity then can be held accountable for the message. Major ISPs have some type of DKIM plan in the works. Mr. Jones from AOL announced that the ISP would start to test for DKIM at the end of this year. DKIM is a great step in the right direction and will undoubtedly address several issues, even if it’s not the absolute solution to messaging abuse.
Besides educating everyone about new methods and technologies in email marketing, MAAWG helped facilitate several steps in the fight against email issues. The first step was collaboration. All the senders, ISPs, and marketers got together to discuss solutions like an “email best code of conduct.” MAAWG members will develop an industry best practices document for all members to follow.
The second step addressed the actual technologies involved in email messaging. Due to ever-changing messaging threats, MAAWG must stay current on new technologies and practices that will combat email abuse. The conference defined architecture and network standards for eliminating messaging abuse, including the reduction of “spoofing” and identity forgery. Hotmail, for example, demonstrated tools that can be used to identify and combat illegitimate senders.
Finally, MAAWG focused on policy. One of MAAWG’s purposes is to build and establish key interfaces, standards, and legislative bodies. By establishing standards, senders (marketers, ESPs) and receivers (ISPs) will be on the same page so that the end user (email recipient) receives legitimate messages.
As spammers and illegitimate senders develop new methods for abusing the email messaging system, organizations like MAAWG work to counter and prevent messaging abuse. There is no silver bullet solution that will stop all spam. It requires communication and collaboration with all the messaging parties involved—both of which MAAWG’s conference helps to promote.