ISOC-ZA fights the battle against spam

February 20, 2007

The Internet Society of South Africa (ISOC-ZA) has officially launched the Spam Bounty Hunter Programme. This is intended to provide information on spam, how to deal with it, when to report it, and how to manage the criminal case and investigation in order to receive a bounty or reward for the successful conviction of a spammer.

According to recent reports from local ISPs, spam makes up more than 70% of all monitored e-mail traffic. This figure has increased by well over 20% in the past six months.

Spam has evolved, and new security risks have emerged, whereby writers of viruses and spammers are merging their expertise to produce a more sophisticated strain of e-mail threat.

ISOC, through the Spam Bounty Hunter initiative, will look to provide Internet users with the knowledge of what spam is and how to catch a local spammer. The initiative is focused on educating individuals on how to deal with local spammers – with respect to the processes to get it to court, when to report it and escalate to the police, as well as how to manage the criminal case and investigations – including the public prosecutor.

As an incentive, a bounty of R7 500 for an admission of guilt fine, R15 000 for a conviction in the magistrates court, and R30 000 for a conviction in the high court, will be rewarded to any member of the public that successfully convicts a spammer.

Established in 1997, ISOC-ZA is a civil society organisation with the goal of developing Internet society locally. According to Alan Levin, chairman of ISOC, public policy is an area where the organisation has had the most activity, and has directly driven and participated in the current legislation on spam.

“Whilst we were hoping for stronger regulations, we understand that at the time of creation the legislation on spam was a good starting point. Now, more than four years later, we have identified an opportunity to improve outcomes and reduce spam originating from SA,” says Levin. “One of the weaknesses in the current system is that it depends on recipients to act on the spam they receive.”

Unfortunately Internet users ­ and the police – are generally unaware of the laws and regulations that govern spam, which often results in a technological solution to a people problem, and, unfortunately, does not slow down or impede the spammer. As a result, the industry is seeing an increase in SA-based spam.

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