IF YOU OUTLAW SPAM . . .
Speaking as a former software developer/architect and mega-e-mail user, this whole spam war thing is absurd [Spam Wars, "Windows Is Part of the Problem," Jan. 28]. It's an unbelievably expensive diversion of man-hours across all sectors of industry (I've heard quotes on the order of fractions of billions) and a ridiculous temporary diversion of technology and expertise. That is, if spam were simply outlawed, then all of that money and expertise presently being devoted to this nonsense would, of course, be off doing something more useful. Secondly, I concur with the person who said fighting it is a losing battle—it is. I know from personal programming experience that (1) you cannot possibly write a program that can catch all the spam, and (2) if I were a spammer, I could easily write a program to get around any and all filters. The only solution is to outlaw spam and prosecute spammers, period.
Dexter St. George
EPIDEMIC THAT ISN'T
An interesting article, describing something to be alarmed about indeed . . . if only the problem it describes were real [Spam Wars, "Windows Is Part of the Problem," Jan. 28]. It's not.
I like to bash Microsoft's lack of security as well as the next person—maybe more so; I'm a software engineer in Apple Computer's Data Security Group, and in general my colleagues and I love stories like this. But the phenomenon of spam-spreading viruses, made possible by Windows' security holes and described in a quote as "the biggest source of spam on the Net right now," and whose prevalence in the wild is described as "probably well into the millions by now," is simply preposterous. Some quick research into the databases of the two genuine authorities (i.e., firms that are well regarded in the field) on the subject mentioned in the article—Symantec and McAfee—yields a total of two currently known viruses that can actually be used to spread arbitrary spam to a large number of specified e-mail addresses (Backdoor.DMSpammer and Trojan.Kalshi). The number of actual reported sightings in the wild for these viruses is less than 50 incidents for each one. These are infinitesimally small potatoes.
There is nothing in this article other than vague quotes by a few people I've never heard of, who work at places I've never heard of, to back up the claim that "75 percent of spam is coming from our own machines." Reporting on a subject like this, and making claims as dire as this, warrants some hard data, some real numbers, and some actual viruses or incidents that can be specifically identified as viruses that spread spam.
You folks can do better. This kind of alarmist reporting does your readers a disservice.
Lake Forest Park
Mark D. Fefer responds: I'm sorry that Mr. Mitchell has not heard of the sources mentioned in my story. MessageLabs and LURHQ are two of the world's leading e-mail security firms and are widely relied on as sources of data and analysis. As for Mr. Mitchell's suggestion that there are only "two currently known viruses that can actually be used" to send spam, I would note that the fastest-spreading virus of last year, Sobig-F, was, according to MessageLabs, expressly designed to turn infected computers into spam engines.
DEPOSIT AT THE SPAM BANK
The most obvious way to combat spam is to make the spammer pay something, say the cost of a first-class stamp, to write you [Spam Wars, Jan. 28]. I write you an e-mail. If I am not precleared with you, I have to deposit the cost of the e-stamp in your account. If you decide I'm OK, then that deposit comes back to me. End of spam. There are entrepreneurs working on this. All we need is some kind of e-bank. Microsoft?
Donald F. Padelford
NO MAC ATTACKS
In the cover package on e-mail and the huge proliferation of viruses, worms, and spambots, you utterly failed to suggest the easiest and most obvious way to avoid the entire mess altogether: Switch to Macintosh [Spam Wars, Jan. 28]. Is the Weekly so blinded by the billionaire in our backyard that you are incapable of acknowledging alternatives to Microsoft? You could have said, "Oh, by the way, there isn't a single virus, worm, spambot, or zombiebot that can affect a Macintosh running OS X." But you didn't. Such one-sidedness suggests that your writers are either completely ignorant of the Mac or prevented from informing readers of its security.
Granted, everyone gets spam, but even if I deliberately download a virus to my Mac, it just sits there and does nothing. A Windows virus or worm simply won't work on a Mac, and none has been written for the Mac's new operating system. Maybe if you and the other news outlets in the Northwest could make it clear that these security issues exist first and foremost on the Windows platform, then I wouldn't have to reassure all my Mac-using friends and co-workers that their computers are safe. But that's probably too much journalistic integrity to hope for from such an obviously slanted publication like the Seattle Weekly.
It takes balls of brass to trash public education for stomping on free thought in an article void of a single original idea [Mossback, "Bush No, Levies Yes," Jan. 28]. In his tepid endorsement of school levies, Knute Berger ran through every clichéd criticism of public education, beginning with the most tired, "no amount of money pumped into it will do much to improve it." The article read like a middle-school essay full of bold assertions with no support. Is it too much to ask Berger to do his homework and be specific about how effectively and efficiently past levy money has been used? The 47,000 students who rely on the levies for their education deserve this much. Someone with balls of brass should be able to give school levies more than a limp endorsement.
NEW BOARD ROLLS
I was delighted to see Geov Parrish's article "A Defining Moment" [Jan. 28]. I have been watching closely as the new School Board ramps up to try to deal with all the issues that have been festering in this district for years. They have much to fix, not the least of which are the equity issues, safety in the schools, clean drinking water, transparent bookkeeping practices, honest dealing with the constituents, and a real give and take with the public.
Six out of seven School Board directors are now having monthly public-access meetings in their districts. The public is encouraged to bring their concerns directly to the board member who represents their district. The board members are listening, and action is being taken.
It is too soon for the public to see much of the results, but I know that 40 schools now have the clean, lead-and-cadmium-free water they should have had for the last 10 years, since testing showed dangerous contamination levels. The new board facilitated that change, and others that are not so easily seen, like the charter school legislation that just died in committee mainly due to the hard work of our board members and other school activists from Seattle. While it is true that the money interests don't like it, our state was saved from siphoning off even more of our needed public school dollars.
This new board insists that the administrators consider, involve, and invest the community in every part of improving our Seattle Public Schools. We will build on the strengths of our schools and community and erase the mistakes. Seattle will have an exemplary school district with accountable administrators and successful children of all races and cultures.
Maggie Metcalfe Hess
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