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At a meeting in Geneva hosted by the International Telecommunications Union and attended by regulators from 60 countries, along with worldwide organisations and corporations, the United Nations (UN) has announced that it plans to control the 'modern day epidemic' of spam within two years.
According to media reports, the UN believes that standardising legislation around the world will make it easier to prosecute spammers. It has additionally called for co-operation between software companies.
Robert Horton, chair of the Geneva meeting, said: "[We have] an epidemic on our hands that we need to learn how to control... International cooperation is the ultimate goal." Horton also stated that the focus will be primarily on unsolicited pornographic email.
"This is great news, but legislation cannot solve the problem on its own," said Carole Theriault, security consultant at Sophos. "Spam is mushrooming to incomprehensible levels. International legislation will help, but only in conjunction with sophisticated anti-spam software and education will the situation be rectified."
In a Sophos online survey conducted earlier this year, more than 75 per cent of the 5,156 respondents said email was critical to their jobs. Almost 80 per cent found spam made them less productive at work, yet only 42 per cent of respondents had anti-spam software in place.
"Anti-spam software not only reduces the time employees take to filter through their email, but it also might frustrate spammers into making a new career choice," continued Theriault. "If spammers cannot reach their target, they are not padding their bank accounts. Without the cash flow, the spammers will suffer."
The Geneva conference attendees, including the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organisation, will look at examples of legislation that can be used to combat the deluge of spam gumming up inboxes around the world. This follows last week's announcement that authorities from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines a framework for cooperating in the fight against spam on an international scale.
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