About 60% (more than 1 out of 2) emails is Spam

January 24, 2007 at 11:30 1 comment

According to Message Labs’ last results, about 60% of all email traffic can be labelled as “spam.

Note that only 0.1% of all messages are virus infected, meaning that spam mails has become the major problem.

Millions of Euro’s are lost each month, directly and indirectly related to spam mails, not to mention the time people loose weeding

What is spam ?

“Spam involves sending unsolicited commercial messages to many recipients. Unlike legitimate commercial e-mail, spam is sent without the explicit permission of the recipients, and frequently contains various tricks to bypass e-mail filtering.
The most common purpose for spamming is advertising. Goods commonly advertised in spam include pornography, unlicensed computer software, pills such as Viagra, credit card accounts, and fad products. Many of the products advertised are fraudulent in nature, such as quack medications and get-rich-quick schemes. Spam is frequently used to advertise scams, such as diploma mills, advance fee fraud, pyramid schemes, stock pump-and-dump schemes, and phishing.”

More info can be found on Wikipedia

Why is spam expensive ?

Emails are electronic messages transmitted over the internet and stored on mail servers and later-on on local PC’s. Storage is *not* free however, certainly not when you have to process millions of messages (of which 60% is… well.. junk).

Why do people send spam ?

Every month, millions of spam mails are sent. While it seems totally useless to do, the spammers keep on doing so, because:

  1. there is a small percentage of people who actually buy the Viagra, fake Rolexes or diploma’s
    Even with a success-rate of 1% at 5 EUR profit per sale, this is big money if you send millions of spam mails per day

How do they get my email address ?

  • Harvesting
    Most of the email adresses used for spamming are gathered using special software designed to search the internet for email addresses. Think of all the email addresses you see passing by while surfing the web. Imagine you can do this at a rate of 1.000 webpages per minute and that you can write down every single email address: that’s a big pile of “live” email adresses.
  • Spyware
    Special spy- or advertising software is installed on your PC and next to keeping track of your surfing behaviour (they know your hobbies, what car you drive, what company you work for, what bank you deal with, your sexual interest, wether you have kids or not, etc…), they also steal your addressbooks (and your banking details …)
  • Viruses
    More and more viruses are used to send spam. Your PC gets infected without you knowing about it, and then becomes a “spambot“, and will start sending out millions of emails together with other infected PC’s.
    Other viruses steal your addressbooks.
  • Lot’s of companies literally sell your email address. Remember the “customer satisfaction surveys” ? Right. and what do you think they do with all this personal info ? Indeed. “Targetted advertising” or better known as “spam”.

What can I do about it ?

1. Prevent spammers from “harvesting” your email addresses.

  • Don’t react on spam messages or fake “email was undeliverable” messages.
    Most spams use “spoofed” email addresses anyway; hiding the real sender’s address. Replying to it does not make sense, since it would be an inocent victim you’re shouting at…
    Even so, if the email address would be valid, it is as if burglars first call your home phone to check if you’re still at home. Each reply to a spam mail – even when you kindly request to unsubscribe — has the inverse effect: your address is tagged “alive” and you will get even more spam !
  • Don’t just give your email address away.
    Why would you give your email address to strangers ? Do you do the same with your home address or phone number ? Same applies here. If you leave your email addresses in guestbooks, blogs or when you submit it to get “free” stuff on the web, you *will* start receiving spam on it in the near future.
    If you really, really need to supply your email address, mask it so it cannot be “harvested” automatically.
    e.g. Stef[dot]Andries[at]makeitwork[dot]be

2. If you do get spam, get rid of it

  • As stated above do NOT react on it
  • If you still get a lot of spam, one drastic measure would be to discontinue your email address and set-up a new one (and keep this one clean).
  • Easier (and very effective) is to use decent mail clients such as Thunderbird, which has an excellent anti-spam filter built-in.
  • Another tip: use two email addresses: 1 for professional/private use and one for the “less-official” purposes: registration in games,… ; jokes; free stuff ; surveys ; etc…

The bottom line:

Email is only a different medium, but is virtually the same as normal postal mail. Why do people use it differently then ?

Make the analogy with Postal mail:

  • do you reply on advertisement ? No.
  • do you forward funny letters to 50 friends and collegues ? No.
  • do you open envelopes with strange objects in it which you get from someone you don’t know ? No.
  • do you send a Nigerian guy money if you get a nice letter from him ? No.

Beating spam starts with all of us. Right ?

Now, forward this mail to 100 friends or bad luck will happen to you 😉

Related info: http://www.messagelabs.com/StatisticsThreat/StatisticsThreatType=Spam


Entry filed under: Technology.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Stef Andries  |  January 30, 2007 at 15:49


    Today, 2 Korean spammers, age 20 and 26 were arrested, for sending 1.6 billion spam mails, advertising cheap personal loans..

    They received 12.000 positive replies !

    This is only a 0.00075% hit rate ! but they managed to sell it for 160.400 USD !!!



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