TIM Shuts Out Vodafone Over Spam
By Carlo Longino, Thu Jun 24 22:30:00 GMT 2004

Italy's top carrier has blocked SMS from Vodafone UK, saying there's been a problem with "fake messages".

Telecom Italia Mobile pulled the plug on incoming SMS from Vodafone's UK network, saying spam is coming from the carrier. Users had been complaining that messages from the British operator weren't being received normally, so TIM sent out a message to users saying it was blocking them.

It appears TIM is concerned that spammers could be exploiting Vodafone's network to bombard their customers with unwanted messages, and is working to patch any holes, aiming to reconnect soon. While it's frustrating for users to have the SMS interconnect severed, it's refreshing to see a carrier take such a stand against spam.

Spam already makes up the vast majority of e-mail -- estimated to be 90% in the US -- and is threatening to make the medium useless. While there is technology that lets users cut down on some measure of unwanted messages, such technology hasn't yet made it to mobile phones. And spam SMS is infinitely more annoying than its wired brethren, given mobile devices' personal and ubiquitous nature.

ISPs are often too lax in forcing other providers to shut down spammers, and there will always be unscrupulous providers who, as long as somebody's paying them, don't care the havoc their customers wreak. But the mobile world needs to be much more aggressive, and the onus falls on carriers to ensure their networks aren't being used by spammers. The massively interconnected nature of GSM networks means that a vulnerability on one network puts mobile users around the world in harm's way. Wise carriers won't stand for it, either, as it will simply irritate customers and damage their credibility.

Kudos to TIM for forcing Vodafone UK to acknowledge the problem, and for being willing to take a dramatic step to force them to rectify it. Hopefully it will cause other carriers to re-evaluate their safeguards and upgrade them if necessary.