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Home : ITU-T Home : Study Groups : Study Group 17
Question 5/17 – Countering spam by technical means
(Continuation of Q.17/17)


The World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly in Resolution 52 instructs the relevant study groups to continue to support ongoing work, in particular in Study Group 17, related to countering spam (e.g., e-mail) and accelerate their work on spam in order to address existing and future threats within the remit and expertise of the ITU-T, as appropriate; to continue collaboration with the relevant organizations (e.g., the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)), in order to continue developing, as a matter of urgency, technical Recommendations with a view to exchanging best practices and disseminating information through joint workshops, training sessions, etc., and further instructs Study Group 17 to report regularly to the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group on the progress of this resolution. Spam has become a widespread problem causing a complex range of problems to users, service providers, and network operators around the globe. While spam was originally used to send unsolicited commercial messages, increasingly spam messages are being used to spread viruses, worms, and other malicious code that negatively impact the security and stability of the global telecommunication network. Spam may convey unwanted information, phishing, spyware and other malware through messaging services (e-mail, SMS, multimedia messaging services, etc.) and could be distributed by botnets1. It is a global problem that requires a multifaceted, comprehensive approach that includes:

  • effective legislation and enforcement,
  • development of technical measures,
  • establishment of industry partnerships and self-regulation,
  • education,
  • international cooperation.

Technical measures to counter spam represent one of those approaches mentioned above.

Study Group 17, as the lead study group on telecommunication security and in supporting the activities of WTSA Resolutions 50 and 52, is well-positioned to study the range of potential technical measures to counter spam as it relates to the stability and robustness of the telecommunication network.

Recommendations under responsibility of this Question as of 1 December 2008: X.1231, X.1240, X.1241 and X.1244.


Study items to be considered include, but are not limited to:

  1. What risks does spam pose to the telecommunication network?
  2. What technical factors associated with the telecommunication network contribute to the difficulty of identifying the sources of spam?
  3. How can new technologies lead to opportunities to counter spam and enhance the security of the telecommunication network?
  4. Do advanced telecommunication network technologies (for example, short message service (SMS), instant messaging, voice over IP (VoIP)) offer unique opportunities for spam that require unique solutions?
  5. What technical work is already being undertaken within the IETF, in other fora, and by private sector entities to address the problem of spam?
  6. What telecommunication network standardization work, if any, is needed to effectively counter spam as it relates to the stability and robustness of the telecommunication network?


Tasks include, but are not limited to:

  1. Act as the lead group in ITU-T on technical means for countering spam, as spam is described by Study Group 2.
  2. Establish effective cooperation with the IETF, the relevant ITU study groups and appropriate consortia and fora, including private sector entities for this area.
  3. Identify and examine the telecommunication network security risks (at the edges and in the core network) introduced by the constantly changing nature of spam.
  4. Develop a comprehensive and up-to-date resource list of the existing technical measures for countering spam in a telecommunication network that are in use or under development.
  5. Determine whether new Recommendations or enhancements to existing Recommendations, including methods to combat delivery of spyware, worm, phishing, and other malicious contents via spam and combat compromised networked equipment including botnet delivering spam, would benefit efforts to effectively counter spam as it relates to the stability and robustness of the telecommunication network.
  6. Provide regular updates to the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group and to the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau to include in the annual report to Council.
  7. Maintain awareness of international cooperation measures on countering spam.


Questions: ITU-T Qs 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11/17

Study groups: ITU-T SGs 2, 11, 13 and 16; ITU-D

Standardization bodies: IETF; ISO/IEC JTC 1; other relevant national and international standards organizations

Other bodies: OECD; MAAWG

1 Botnets are a collection of software agents, in which multiple computing devices cooperate to generally achieve unwanted results. Botnets are frequently used to distribute spam.


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