It’s disappointing to see an information security organization as good as SANS get an issue about information security so painfully wrong. In its weekly NewsBites newsletter (issue 48, not available in the online archive at the time of writing), the following entry appears as a link to an eWeek article:

—Spammers Exploit Anti-Spam Technology - DomainKeys
(29 November 2004)
Spammers have begun using DomainKeys to make their fake messages appear legitimate. DomainKeys was one of the more promising technologies designed to eliminate forging, but spammers appear to have co-opted it.,2533,a=139951,00.asp

What’s the problem with this? That in this case, DomainKeys are actually doing their job, not somehow being controverted. Much like Sender Policy Framework, Yahoo’s DomainKeys technology is not an antispam solution, but an antiforgery solution. As it’s described on that Yahoo! page (and by Ars Technica in a review), DomainKeys provides a way for email recipients to see whether or not a piece of email comes from the sender it claims to have come from. In other words, DomainKeys only helps assess whether or not an email really did come from; it specifically makes no claims about helping users figure out whether or not his product will actually make your penis grow five inches overnight.

So when SANS says that “spammers appear to have coopted” DomainKeys, everyone should all be ecstatic — that means that email users and administrators gain the ability to know for certain when email comes from certain mail servers and domains, and thus be able to block those servers and domains with absolute confidence that it’s the right thing to do. Shame on SANS (and Dennis Fisher at eWeek) for not knowing the difference.