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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Anonymous Freemail Spurs Debate




A local systems integrator has set up a new freemail service to make instant, free and anonymous e-mail available to anyone with an Internet connection f including spammers, stalkers and other online undesirables.


The system works along the lines of web browser-based e-mail services such as the Russian-language Mail.ru system or Microsoft's Hotmail.


But unlike Mail.ru or Hotmail, Quickmail.ru users don't have to register to use the service f they simply open up a browser window and begin to type. The message arrives in the addressee's box seconds after the message is sent.


Users can't receive mail on the site. In the "From" field, they can write what they like: their names, their addresses f or someone else's. Then they can write or upload and send anything they like, from love letters to bills to viruses.


"We made a convenient service," said Dmitry Sharov, general director of Filanco, the systems integrator and Internet company that set up Quickmail.ru. "You can't make everything good for everyone. We worked on the principle of doing good for the majority."


Faking an e-mail from someone else's address doesn't require advanced hacking skills. In principle, it is possible with Eudora, Netscape or any mail program where the user's name and return address don't necessarily have a technical connection to the IP address where the message originated, Sharov pointed out.


The real origin of the message isn't hidden from a Quickmail recipient: The "X-mailer," or IP address of the originating server, is listed at the top of each message. In Quickmail's case, the address is nobody@ns.hoster.ru.


But local providers say it leaves users, especially the uninitiated, vulnerable to spammers f senders of unsolicited e-mail f and other online persecutors.


At least one mail service has threatened to take action to protect its users.


Mail.ru operators Port.ru, who claim 250,000 unique user sessions on Mail.ru every day, say they might block any messages from the Quickmail.ru server.


"We are concerned about the incorrect use of this service and the deceit of users," Nikita Korzun, marketing director for Port.ru, said in a telephone interview. "We are holding talks [with the Quickmail.ru developers]. They are continuing now. It is likely that as of Monday we will bar messages from Quickmail [from entering Mail.ru's servers]."


Moscow's largest Internet access company, MTU-Inform, which says it has more than 100,000 subscribers, is also concerned.


"Freemail servers should exist, but they should not be anonymous," said Dmitry Dronov, marketing director for MTU-Inform. "From a market point of view, they will be in demand, but spammers will take advantage of the anonymity."


Sharov, for his part, says the company has taken internal measures to fight abuse of the system and set the mailer to prevent bulk spam by setting a limit of two addressees per message.


For now, spamming and e-mail fraud are not covered by legislation, and victims of e-mail harassment originating from Quickmail's servers appear to have no legal recourse.


"The only way to do it is to ask the provider to close it down," said Mikhail Yakushev, head of the working group on legislation of the Union of Internet Operators, a nonprofit group of industry members. Quickmail, however, is hosted on Filanco's own servers.