ACA gets $200,000 to fight spam

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) is to receive additional funding totalling A$300,000 (US$204,000) to enforce new anti-spam legislation that is before parliament.

The ACA will administer the new laws and executive manager of Consumer and Universal Service Obligation John Haydon will lead the crackdown on bulging inboxes.

Under the legislation, software used to harvest addresses and generate address lists for the purposes of sending spam will be banned.

Courts will also be able to award compensation businesses that have suffered from spamming, while also being able to recover profits made by spammers.

Haydon told Computerworld that the A$300,000 spam funding would supplement current ACA budget for this financial year and stressed that he was expecting larger amounts for consecutive years.

“We have estimated that the first (funding period) will not commence until quite late this financial year. Our indicative planning is that (the legislation will pass) at the end of the year. We have to see what gets through first and if there are any changes. We are certainly anticipating more (funding) in coming years”, Haydon said.

In addition to infringement notices for minor transgressions there are substantial penalties – including damages of up to A$1.1 million per day – in severe cases.

Haydon said plans for immediate domestic spam countermeasures are afoot. These will include “targeting weaknesses” including ISPs and telcos which allow open relays. Haydon says he is also prepared to pull the revenue rug out from under service providers who profit from spam traffic: “You can imagine a range of measures, for example prohibiting the charging for material that is spam that (is) downloaded”, Haydon said.

“When we do encounter spammers we will have a full range of powers from (enforceable undertakings) to court action. These people will have to ask themselves if it is worth it, because the court action could prove very expensive.”

While many have questioned if legislation can counter a problem originating largely from overseas, Haydon said the ACA is well placed to do the job.

“We already have a lot of experience in dealing with the telecommunications industry, and we will certainly leverage off that. We would expect that we would have a forensics capability to investigate the origins of spam and to address weaknesses on the Internet such as open relays”, Haydon said.

Spam busting vendors like Surf Control managing director Charles Heunemann are cautiously applauding from the sidelines and taking a global view of the local problem.

“At least the government are doing something about it. What it will stop is Australia becoming a haven for spam friendly ISPs. If Australian’s hire someone to spam for them overseas, they may not be immune from prosecution. Spammers will be driven into the Badlands.”