Spam under the spotlight

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Individuals are increasingly concerned about their privacy in the online world, according to a Microsoft security strategist.

The cybercrime problem was big and growing, said Scott Charney, Microsoft's chief security strategist, urging companies to think about protection before they were attacked. "In cyberspace an ounce of prevention is a ton of cure, because after the fact it's really hard to do anything about it," Charney said.

The Internet's anonymity was also good for criminals who didn't want to get caught, Charney said in his keynote address at the vendor's Tech Ed conference in the US.

He compared the prosecution of people committing crimes on the Internet with murders, the latter he said had an 80 to 90 percent clearance rate. "What's the clearance rate in hacker cases? Two percent," he said. "So what's the deterrent if there's no fear of getting caught?"

He also touched on the growing issue of privacy in his keynote, commenting on issues such as spam, and individual's control over information that organisations held about them. "Studies continually show that people all over the world are increasingly concerned about their privacy because one thing computers do is make it really easy to collect data, analyse it, store it and disseminate it," Charney said. "And it happens in ways that the data subject, the person about whom the data relates, is unaware."

The issue of privacy and retaining information has been of continued concern to Australian businesses, following the introduction of privacy legislation.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton has commented in the past couple of months about the effects of spam on privacy. "Spam poses a major challenge to people being able to control what happens with their personal information," Crompton said in a release on the topic. "We all have a right to know who is contacting us, why they have contacted us and generally where they got our information from."

While Crompton conceded at the time that there was "no silver bullet for spam", he warned that the Federal Privacy Commissioner's office would use the full extent of the Privacy Act to combat the spam problem, within its current resource constraints. "I would certainly investigate any allegations of spamming by Australian companies," he said.

Laws Clause: Vivienne Fisher travelled to Tech Ed 2003 courtesy of Microsoft.

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