Chinese Government, U.S. Techies Agree on Anti-Spam Measures

Chinese government and U.S. technology experts have agreed on specific measures to curb spam originating from both countries, says a researcher who coordinated bilateral talks.

The recommendations include establishing protocols to separate legitimate messages from junk mail; educating consumers about the risk of so-called botnets -- infected personal computers programmed by hackers to send bulk e-mails -- and preventing spam by, for example, encouraging Internet service providers to use "feedback loops," which allow e-mail recipients to blacklist suspected spam.

The EastWest Institute, a global think tank, worked with the government-controlled Internet Society of China, a consortium of tech companies overseen by China's Information Industry Ministry, to develop a report on computer security that will be released next month.

What many Americans may not realize, say some researchers, is that the United States is responsible for sending the most spam worldwide. This country outputs 18.83 percent of all junk mail while China is nowhere on the most recent "Dirty Dozen" list of heaviest spam-relaying countries released by security firm Sophos in January.

However, while the United States is transmitting the junk, Americans aren't necessarily creating it. Botnets controlled by foreigners, including people in Russia and China, often disseminate mass e-mails remotely via compromised computers in the United States, unbeknownst to the computers' owners.

According to EastWest officials the experts focused their paper on spam partly because China has restrained spam in recent years.

President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao in January agreed to join forces in addressing cybersecurity.

"This cooperative effort will not end with this report," said Yonglin Zhou, a director at the Internet Society of China. "Rather, it is a part of an ongoing process between Chinese and United States experts to open dialogue and foster mutual understanding."