This article in The Register discusses the long-term effect of spam and viral messages, which are undermining the potential usefulness of e-mail and might lead inexorably to a less open Internet.

Someone on a mailing list got the Sobig virus and I’m under attack by Sobig messages – more than 200 in the last twelve hours. I’ve talked to clients who have been hit even harder.

Even before Sobig, probably ninety percent of the e-mail I received was malicious junk. Folks dissecting the Sobig code see signs that its true purpose was to use the infected computers later to send untraceable spam – and they expect the authors to release more sophisticated versions of the Sobig code soon.

The antivirus vendors will get another boost from Sobig and its cousins, but it looks more and more like defensive technology on each desktop won’t be enough. The heavyweights are beginning to explore technology to lock down the computer to prevent code from executing – which has the power to be helpful, but also can be used to implement digital rights management and prevent you from freely using your data.

And there will be pressure on the ISPs to begin to filter traffic on the Internet. It might seem like a good idea for your ISP to filter out spam and viruses, but the Internet has been built on a philosophy of open traffic with no control exercised in the middle. Once that philosophy is eroded, many bad things can happen. Perhaps your ISP will be pressured into preventing Kazaa traffic. Perhaps a Time Warner cable system will prevent access to MSN web sites. Perhaps cable broadband providers will prevent remote VPN access to company networks.

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