Fellow E-Mailers Urged to Adopt Authentication for the Holidays

NEW YORK — It's the middle of July, and members of the e-mail industry were here yesterday at the Marriott Marquis talking about Christmas.

The holiday shopping season is the target set by industry leaders, who gathered for the E-mail Authentication Implementation Summit 2005, for widespread adoption of e-mail authentication — technologies that confirm the originating point of e-mails. Authentication is crucial in combating e-mail address spoofing, which is disrupting consumer trust in marketing e-mails.

E-mailers who already have proceeded with authentication urged others to do the same. Bank of America has used the Sender ID/Sender Policy Framework authentication protocol for outbound and incoming e-mail, said Erik M. Johnson, the company's vice president of e-mail infrastructure and secure messaging.

“We learned early on that implementing e-mail authentication is not rocket science,” Johnson said. “Our implementation of SPF went very smoothly.”

Nevertheless, only one-quarter of the e-mails coming into MSN Hotmail use Sender ID, said John Tafoya, program manager for MSN Hotmail. Tafoya also called on e-mailers to implement authentication by the holidays.

Industry acceptance of e-mail authentication could be critical to maintain marketing e-mail deliverability rates, speakers at the summit said. Hotmail is considering increased emphasis on Sender ID in filtering out incoming e-mails and is looking at adopting a new protocol, Domain Key Identified Mail.

Speakers said authentication is only part of the solution to spam — which they claimed is coming under control — and phishing, which they identified as a growing problem that is eroding consumer trust. Authentication only establishes the identity of the sender of an e-mail.

The next step after implementation is to build a reputation network that can be used to differentiate good e-mailers from bad ones, said Craig Spiezle, director of the technology care and safety team at Microsoft. Some spammers and phishers already have adopted e-mail authentication protocols, so the next goal will be identifying them and filtering out their e-mails. However, for authentication to be effective, everyone in the industry needs to be on board, Spiezle said.

“No one company can do this alone, no one industry can do this alone, and the government can't do this alone,” he said. “It really requires collaboration.”

Authentication also is important for protecting brands and consumer relationships, summit speakers said. Studies have shown that online attacks can affect consumer trust and online shopping behavior.

“We need to reinforce confidence in electronic messaging and e-commerce,” Spiezle said. “Some studies have been coming out showing that it's declining.”

In the early days of the Internet, online pioneers saw cyberspace as an ideal of open communications based on trust, said Esther Dyson, editor for Release 1.0 CNET Networks. Since spammers and crooks have moved into the neighborhood, the Internet will need more checks on communication to remain viable, and e-mail authentication is part of that process.

“What we need to do with the Internet right now is put back a little friction,” Dyson said.

Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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