Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Talking Spam

It might be a nightmare that few of us want to imagine. But as more people abandon traditional phone lines and start placing calls over the Internet, an explosion of voice-mail spam is a real possibility, telecommunications experts say. To contain that explosion, engineers at Qovia, a voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) management company in Frederick, MD, have developed a technology that may shut up voice spam before it gets started.

Internet technology makes it easy for a single “caller” to send voice messages to thousands of people’s VoIP mailboxes. Indeed, last fall, Qovia engineers managed to write software for two major types of VoIP systems that sent voice messages to 1,000 targets per minute in simulations – the first known demonstration of spam over Internet telephony, or SPIT. Though no real-life cases of SPIT have been documented, that’s largely because there aren’t enough VoIP users to make it worthwhile for spammers, says Winn Schwartau, president of Interpact, a security consulting company in Seminole, FL.

That’s changing rapidly, though. In 2003, there were only about 131,000 residential VoIP subscribers, according to the Yankee Group, a Boston-based communications research firm. By 2008, that number is expected to skyrocket to more than 17.5 million, roughly the number of people who were using e-mail when spam took off around 1995. The result could be an at least temporary resurgence of telemarketing; the Federal Trade Commission’s do-not-call registry does not restrict calls made over the Internet.

This story is part of our October 2004 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

But by monitoring factors such as the length of calls and the rate at which calls are being made from particular Internet addresses, Qovia’s software can identify and block up to 95 percent of SPIT before it reaches its intended recipients, says chief technology officer Choon Shim. The company plans to incorporate the technology into its VoIP security software later this year, and if Qovia customers such as Nortel Networks build the software into their systems, SPIT may be one frustration we never have to face.

Countdown to EmTech Digital 2019. Join us and be the AI leader your company needs.

Register now
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.