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Editorial pointers

Editorial Pointers


It's a cyberspace cat-and-mouse game with billions at stake and billions more spent in intercepting and eradicating spam. No sooner does a new crop of anti-spam solutions hit the market than spammers find new ways to defeat them.

There appeared to be a global reprieve of sorts about 18 months ago that experts credited to the strength of a new line of anti-spam filters and compliance with the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. But it was woefully short-lived and a roar of unsolicited email took off last summer with greater reach than ever. Today, 9 out of 10 email messages are spam. Indeed, Reuters reports spam now costs firms up to $1,000 a year per employee in lost production and higher computing bills. Experts blame the global rise in zombie networks (or botnets) that link 100,000 computers without user knowledge, giving spammers huge computing power to send tens of millions more messages without a trace.

This month's cover article examines the latest line of defense from anti-spam researchers. Joshua Goodman, Gordon V. McCormack, and David Heckerman discuss machine-learning and compression-based solutions, IP-address-based techniques, cryptography, and other filtering technologies. The fight may never end, rather, they suspect spammers will be unable to afford to stay in business and move on...maybe.

Adding to the discussion is Galen Grimes's analysis of the effectiveness of the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 in deterring unsolicited mail. He examines implementation efforts six months after the law was signed, comparing them with compliance efforts three years later.

In other news, realizing the U.S. government's vision of a health care information infrastructure is daunting, but Agrawal et al. contend it is possible to build the technology needed to share a patient's medical records without sharing that patient's identity. Baraglia and Silvestri introduce a novel online recommender system that builds user profiles without the user needing to input personalized content. In addition, Bhatti et al. examine the ability to federate user identity across organizational databases while maintaining user access rights and privileges.

Jacoby and Luqi trace the challenge of creating reliable methods for measuring the effectiveness of intranets. And Glassberg and Merhout look back at the seminal article on electronic markets and hierarchies written in 1987 by Thomas Malone, Joanne Yates, and Robert Benjamin, exploring how that theory holds up 20 years later in light of today's dynamic e-marketplace.

Pamela Samuelson looks at some of the critical patent reforms that are reachable through court action. And Michael Cusumano, who has covered Microsoft's strategies for well over a decade, predicts some of the major challenges the software giant will face on the business front, as open, free, and innovative challengers come to the fore.


©2007 ACM  0001-0782/07/0200  $5.00

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