Spam, Terrorism, and Coffee Breaks: Some Interesting Technology Applications

Spam causes all sorts of problems. Claims regarding the cost of policing spam and the use of equipment to get rid of or send spam generate questions about how the law applies if at all. Terrorism causes problems. Claims regarding the cost of policing terrorism generate, well, they generate all sorts of mayhem in many contexts including the law. (Now I am waiting for someone to claim that all spammers are terrorists which this post is not suggesting.) This post is not about the law’s relationship to these problems. Rather Slashdot has two posts about using technology to address these problems. One offers a paper that claims to solve how to authenticate email without needing domain administrators to be involved. The Slashdot post explains “A single email from an unauthenticated domain is bounced and then resent — this previously unauthenticated domain and the server listed in the return path of the resent bounce are entered into a globally accessible database. All future emails sent from this domain via this server will be authenticated after checking this new database. Mechanisms to authenticate forwarded email and to nullify subversion of this anti-spam system are also described.” The paper is here.

The other post notes the use of randomization software to defeat terrorists at LAX airport. According to MSNBC “USC doctoral student Praveen Paruchuri sought to find a way for one “agent” (or robot or company) to react to an adversary who has perfect information about the agent’s decisions” but few saw the application of his work until LAX officials saw the program as a way to mitigate predictable patterns of security patrols. The article indicates that the software will be used for the canine-bomb patrols too. I wonder whether they will use the software to randomize coffee breaks too. All jokes aside not doing so would probably give someone an angle to exploit.