[Mailman-Users] The economics of spam

Lindsay Haisley fmouse-mailman at fmp.com
Thu Dec 25 03:30:35 CET 2008

On Thu, 2008-12-25 at 10:29 +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
> Including a national monopoly email provider, I guess?  What I
> interpret Lindsay to be saying is that for Christmas cards you can
> treat the USPS as a well-behaved black box (in the systems analysis
> sense; it may or may not do the job it claims to do at all well, but
> you can figure out what job it reliably does).  In particular you can
> determine that a piece of mail was properly paid for by the addressee
> because each and every one has postage *attached*, not merely
> "accounted for" somewhere.  This is not true for ICMP or for email as
> currently designed; there is no way to determine the provenance of a
> packet in general.

To carry this analogy a bit further, here's an idea.  IPv6 provides a
substantial improvement in flexibility over IPv4, and the upgrade path
from IPv4 to IPv6 is clear and relatively seamless.  Would it not be
possible to establish a dual-key cryptographic packet signature protocol
for email sent using IPv6, applied at a packet level, and this signature
could be authenticated against a private key, present only (or
indicating) if the email sent using these packets has been been paid

For v4 systems behind a IPv6->IPv4 gateway the v6 wrapper would be
stripped away and the encapsulated email would be delivered normally,
along with all the spam sent to it.  For SMTP servers that are truly
v6-aware and running on a v6 network it would be possible to verify the
payment signature contained in the packet extensions and discriminate
between paid-for email and spam.

Perhaps the payment-autentication system could be developed in the
context of a distributed database resembling that used for DNS, or more
like DNSSEC, perhaps.

Piggybacking this SMTP extension on the top of the already robust IPv6
standard would provide the flexibility for system that were not IPv6
aware to opt out of the signature system and accept _all_ email.  The
logical key here is that it's up to the _originating_ SMTP system to
obtain a cryptographic key and negotiate payment.  It's up to the
_receiving_ system to decide whether to discriminate between paid-for
email and unpaid email, so as to reject it, pre-tag it, or deal with it
in some other fashion with the (v4) default being to treat all inbound
email as it's treated now.

This would not require a re-design of SMTP, only an extension of it.

If this were feasible, it would certainly spur the deployment of IPv6
which could stand a kick in the ass.

Lindsay Haisley       |"Fighting against human |     PGP public key
FMP Computer Services |   creativity is like   |      available at
512-259-1190          |   trying to eradicate  |<http://pubkeys.fmp.com>
http://www.fmp.com    |       dandelions"      |
                      |     (Pamela Jones)     |

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