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In these days and age security on personnal computers has become important, such importance that Bill Gates stated that when Microsoft will have to choose between features and security, they will now choose security.
This reflections came from the increasing numbers of rogue people on the Internet. Anybody can send you anything, or trick you in installing anything on your computer. The solution is to identify everybody so when you have a problem you can at least blame someone. This is particulary true in the case of SPAM. It is often difficult to find the originator of an unsolicited e-mail and worse to be able to do something to stop this person. What many people have called for is tracability. If you receive some information which is not traceable through a certificate, you may decide to treat this information differently. This is the same concept as caller ID on telephone network. Certifcates offer this capaility for all applicationson the Internet, e-mails (S/MIME), Commerce transactions (HTTPS), Software install (Code Signing),... Unfortunately certificates are not widely used because they cost a lot if they have to be fully deployed. How many users on Yahoo mail, Hotmail, CA Online, can afford an e-mail certificate? There are some scheme to offer free e-mails certificates, but they can only certify that an e-mail address exists, they can trace back to a human or a body in the real world.
A global PKI is needed. All the protocols and standards exist, not need to reinvent the wheel. The IETF has all the mechanice worked out. An LDAP server can store the certificates, a DNS server can reference entry back to certificate stores, HTTP can deliver certificate to applications, S/MIME can secure e-mails,... The problem is now a policy problem or rather a profile problem: select which pieces of this standard should be used to cooperate into a global PKI. Which organisation should provide such service? What level of security/tracability will be achieved?... If one can answer these questions, it will be a step in the right direction and if users buy in, then problem solved...
I will keep updated this chapter as the work of the working group on PKI of the Internet Society progress. The Internet Society is also managing the .org Top Level Domain name, so they have a lot of capabilities at hand to solve this e-mail spamming problem.