In his latest News.com column, Declan McCullagh, author of Reason's newsmaking June cover story on "the databasification" of America, writes about "zombie computers" that are responsible for massive amounts of spam email.
Zombie computers arise when spammers seize on bugs in Microsoft Windows–or from naive users who click on attachments–to take over PCs and transform them into spambots. No hard numbers exist, but some estimates say that about one-third of spam comes from zombie computers with broadband connections. The owners of the zombie PCs typically don't even notice what's happening.
High-speed access provider Comcast has been fingered as one of the–if not the–main culprit in zombification, due to its treatment of outgoing mail. McCullagh reports that "the Internet's biggest spammer is finally trying imaginative ways to save our in-boxes from its subscribers." The story underscores that, pace lawmakers, the fix for spam will be techonological, not legal. (McCullagh recently wrote about how laws attempting to govern Internet-based communication, including spam, typically go wrong here).
Imagining a world without spam raises the question: What will we do with all the time we used to spend deleting Paris Hilton video pitches, ads for Cial*s, and all those fabulous investment opportunities from the relatives of deposed African dictators?
Reason chewed over the spam issue here.