MAAWG, IETF, and BITS

by J.D. Falk
Director of Product Strategy, Receiver Services

As announced this morning, the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) has established formal relationships with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the BITS/Financial Services Roundtable.

MAAWG is comprised of ISPs, technology vendors including Return Path, ESPs, and a small but growing number of big brands, all interested in talking about email spam and other abuses of messaging systems. Some of their published documents include the Senders Best Communications Practices, which could be called the deliverability bible, and Message Sender Reputation Concepts and Common Practices, the best publicly available resource for understanding reputation systems like Sender Score.

The IETF is the organization responsible for nearly all of the technical standards that make the internet work, from network routing to email to things you’ve never heard of; I explained their work
last October. And BITS is the group within which many banks gather to discuss technology and technical interoperability.

The relationship between MAAWG and the IETF probably seems obvious; MAAWG does more at the policy level, while the IETF is focused almost entirely on technology, but there’s a lot of overlap. For example, the industry-standard Abuse Reporting Format (ARF) for complaint feedback loops started as a discussion within MAAWG, became a draft standard within the IETF, and will be proceeding through the IETF process.

Adding BITS to the mix is a sensible move when you consider the ongoing phishing problem. Financial institutions have always been one of the main targets of phishers, and that’s unlikely to change. MAAWG, along with the Anti-Phishing Working Group, is working on ways to reduce phishing — including promoting the use of authentication by anyone who cares about their brand.

It’s often said that there are too many different organizations working on the overlapping areas of abuse, trust, and related issues. We believe the collaborative approach MAAWG has chosen will bridge these gaps. Working together as equals, each organization’s individual strength and influence is combined and increased, leading to the best possible results.

Return Path has been involved in MAAWG since shortly after its inception, and a number of our employees have participated in IETF working groups, including those focused on SMTP and DKIM standards. We’re very excited about the relationship these three organizations have formed, and look forward to seeing (and participating in) the important work to come.

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