Digitally-Signed Email: Authentication and Digital Signatures

E-mail was one of the first “killer apps” on the Internet, and has been a major contributor to increases in productivity over the past ten years. Of course, along with email came the scourge of spam. Criminals infect computers with trojan horse programs, creating collections of machines they control remotely to send millions of unsolicited offers for fake watches, pirated software, phony medications and ecard invitations to infect your computer.

As spam reaches 30, 40 or even 100 unwanted messages per day on a targeted account, it is becoming essential to automatically separate legitimate messages from spam. One tool available to senders of legitimate emails to aid the recipient in this process is to digitally sign their messages, allowing the recipient to establish a level of comfort that the message actually came from the indicated sender.

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Offshored tech support from the phone company… so bad it's funny + $240 per year for an email address ?!

We usually feature articles on technical fundamentals in the newsletter – but this related topic might lighten up your day… a “help” desk so bad, it’s almost funny.

Recently, a relative asked me to help them sort out an issue with their ISP. They were paying for two internet access services, one old dial-up plan and one DSL plan. They wanted to go to a new 802.16 WiMax broadband wireless plan from the same ISP. They question they were trying to sort out was whether they could move their email addresses from the two existing services to the new one… or if they would lose those email addresses.

So I agreed to contact the ISP’s email “help” desk to find out the answer. One would think that the question: “Can I migrate my email address from one service provided by your company to another?” would be a frequently-asked question at an ISP email help desk, and could be answered “yes” or “no” in a few seconds.

However, it turned out that the ISP, a subsidiary of Bell Canada, has outsourced most of its customer service, and what could have been answered in a few seconds turned into a 20-minute waste of time. Here’s a transcript of the online chat session:

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