August 2017 - Cybersecurity | Email Marketing | Authentication

Telling the Good Guys from the Spammers - It's Like a War Out There

During the 2017 CSA Summit in Cologne, Oath’s Marcel Becker talked to eco’s Rosa Hafezi about what good senders can do to stand out in a sea of spammers, and how the email community needs to work together to beat the bad guys.


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HAFEZI: Marcel, you have said previously that good senders and spammers act the same, they look the same. So how can we, or an ESP, or the recipient actually tell them apart? 

BECKER: That’s the challenge. That’s exactly why we need to invest. We need to continue to look at what’s happening out there, we need to study really what the bad guys are doing – together with the senders, educate them, come up with more best practices, all the things we shared today at the summit. Because the good and the bad guys are really competing with each other. They all want to get their email to our mutual customers. And the bad guys are really, really good at adopting the latest technology. They read the same best practice documents, maybe they attend the same conferences. And they have a lot of money. They can really invest in infrastructure. Or they just compromise existing infrastructure and use that to circumvent whatever other rules we have out there. 

And that’s an ongoing challenge. It is like a war out there, I always say. We have guys in the trenches, monitoring senders, looking at behavior, trying to identify the good guy. Trying to look at the smallest signals to say, OK, this is really a bad guy, or this might be a good guy. Terry [Zink, Microsoft] spoke a little bit about that as well. There’s lots of secret sauce out there. Microsoft is doing one, Google is doing some other thing, Yahoo is doing something, AOL is doing something, and it continues to be a challenge. And I think us working closer together, exchanging these ideas as much as we can, both on the sender side as well as on the receiver side, will just help all of us to be better at identifying, OK – this guy is really good, and this guy is really bad. 

HAFEZI: OK, then for me as a non-technical person, what could an ESP, or a good sender, do as a plus? 

BECKER: Talk to us. I think that’s the biggest opportunity or the biggest option they have is to work with us. Sit down with us so we get to know them, they get to know us, and not just us as AOL or Yahoo, but as a representative of the receiving community. Conferences like the CSA Summit really help, where we can all get together: the senders, the brands, the ESPs, the ISPs, and we can exchange and share information or just talk. What’s the latest technology? What are you guys working on? Like the BIMI [Brand Indicators for Message Identification] thing we introduced there. How can we help you to help us get to our customers. You as a sender, do not treat this as a fire and forget exercise. Don’t assume email is easy and simple and you just pay a bunch of guys to send the email and that’s it. 

Really treat this just like other important parts of your business. You want to understand where you invest in, what’s your return of investment, how does it perform, how can I maybe pay less but improve the performance. And I think it’s the same kind of market environment. Work with us on the receiving side. Work with us on the application development side. All of these customers are our mutual customers. They’re not different people, they’re all the same. And if we work together, we can make a difference. Because I, for sure, will not sit down with the bad guys and share data with them. 

HAFEZI: Could you tell us the most important three best practices that we could all give as a takeaway to the community? 

BECKER: As we said in the presentation: feedback loops - definitely establish those for list hygiene, and there’s a whole bunch of subsequent best practices that come with that. From a technical perspective, warm up your IPs. From a recipient perspective, put tracking in there. I do not mind tracking if it’s done right. Understand what your customers really want. Do not overwhelm them with a lot of stuff they might not want. So, in short, I guess send the right and relevant email (there are a number of things you need to do for that) and invest in the presentation. Embrace mobile and new products like Alto Mail. Most brands invest so much money in marketing – classic marketing, brand awareness, and related things and then they invest little in email, and how email is structured. Do that – it’s not just another tool, it’s how you can reach or communicate your brand to consumers. 

Read a summary of Marcel Becker’s talk at the 2017 CSA Summit

Becker also spoke at the 2016 CSA Summit.

Marcel Becker leads the product team responsible for the Alto Mail consumer product as well as anti-abuse efforts for all consumer mail products (Yahoo, AOL, Verizon) under the Oath Inc. umbrella. 
Before that Marcel was responsible for AOL’s Email and international products, supporting its international expansion.

Please note: The opinions expressed in Industry Insights published by dotmagazine are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the publisher, eco – Association of the Internet Industry