Local Antispam Efforts

Sajjad Zaidi is detailing that Dancom has started blocking port 25 on its network. Port 25 is used for operating email servers. This means that ordinary users of the service would not be able to operate mail servers on their own. Of course, Dancom provided SMTP server would be there to accept mails for onward sending.

Basically this is what every major ISP eventually concludes as the right thing to do.

By doing so, and doing so collectively, Pakistani ISPs can contribute to the global Internet community by ensuring that small sources of spam (that can collectively be a huge problem) are stopped from spitting the junk to the Internet at large. The ‘cost’ involved in taking this step is obviously the efforts such ISPs would have to put in to face the customers who would ask for this facility. The disputes, although not very likely, can also enter legal domain with questions being asked along the lines of Net Neutrality and consumer rights.

Applying the restrictions to the pre-paid card users seems to be most justified. These users have no identity-revealing-relationship with the providers other than the CLI information. For account-based customers and other SOHO/business customers, the step would be difficult to implement.

Acceptable Use Policies and Terms & Conditions of the ISPs taking this step will require updates to ensure that users are told about the fact that they cannot use the service for running their own email servers . Quality (uptime, queue holding capacities etc) of SMTP servers at the service provider end will also to be enhanced. Customer services staff that face the customers will require training and provisioning of background information on the subject matter to fully satisfy the customers who can mistake this netizen-friendly step as a draconian right-denial thing.

Here Come Copycat Highend GSM Sets

The local market has lately been hit with look-alike advanced handsets of Chinese origin (just see, don’t buy from this company as they’ve been spamming us around). These copy cats might be missing a number of finer details that the originals are known for but when you have millions of low-income but aspiring youth as your potential customers, there is always room for the lookalikes.

The cell-crazy, potable-water-thirsty nation is expected to have 100 million mobile subscribers. The size of the market is already attracting interest of manufacturers worldwide. Ufone is offering a C123 with Rs 75 balance and the ‘Public Demand’ package for Rs 1,499.

Death by CLI!

The hoax took the nation by storm. And it actually became a social virus much to the delight of whoever must have released it in the first place. And true to the traditions of the ‘Jinn in London Mosque‘ and ‘Bomb Blast at Grumander’ news, this was aired on the TVs only to be later declared as a hoax in the slides.

We saw a number of interesting things happening out there. As if the constant calls from friends and knocks at the office room from colleagues was not enough, my doctor wife wore the most serious and somber of the faces I have seen on her in the past seven years when she asked me: ‘What will happen now?’ – taking the troublesome news item as a ground reality in the first place. And every tech savvy person in my circle had similar stories to tell about from their respective surroundings.

On the face of it, it seems a bad situation that we had the hoax getting so successful in the public. However, this very event once again proved the fact that the nation has truly gone cellular in the past few years with everyone – okay ‘almost’ everyone – having a piece of this convenience. We cannot blame the masses for the lack of technical acumen to separate a hoax from a real trouble – this is how the general public behaves the world over. The other silver lining very much visible was the voluntary squad of techies that stood up and fought the hoax in a distributed manner. This again is a sign of the youngsters getting a hang on the technology and its possibility brackets.

Since the majority of the hoax message talked about ‘an unknown or weird’ number being the culprit, I am tempted to ponder on the possibility of this being an attempt to curb illegal voice termination where it is given that the origination number would be hidden behind a dummy number which generally is also weird and distinct from regular numbers that we receive during the day. Of course, such an measure to counter illegal call termination would be silly for it will have a production cycle of days if not hours but it seems probable that for as long as the hoax caused the greatest panic, illegal calls were probably not terminated into Pakistan :)

Another thought that quickly hit after we saw the panic waves around the network was whether the industry has now reached a state of stability and harmony to do a structured search from the SMS records of the six cellular operators and make an attempt to track where the stuff started from in the first place. Even if we are too late, or the records are too many or the stuff originated out of Pakistan, an effort in this direction will sure teach us a thing or two. Internet is even more complex and multi-partied and yet virus and malware writers do get identified when efforts are put in. This would be more productive than the pacifying announcement by PTA on the same topic.

And finally, since a lot of friends were debating whether there is a possibility of this being crafted by the cellular operators in the first place for increased SMS traffic between their users, I can only confirm that this is a long established practice in the operators to ‘seed’ interesting and most-likely-to-be-forwarded messages to small number of customers every now and then only to see a ripple effect of the messages moving around the network, brining in revenue.

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