The Cost of Spam

The first in a three part series, this Associated Press article on spam addresses the issue from several perspectives. Among some interesting figures, it claims that a whopping 80% of the e-mail received by Hotmail subscribers is spam. AT&T customers are also seeing an increase in spam, though more in the range of 20 to 25%. Brightmail, a company which sells spam blocking services, recorded 4.8 million spam attacks last month, a five fold increase from the same month last year.

Besides frightening statistics, the article talks about the tactics used by spammers to harvest accounts and bypass filters. In part two of the article, one spammer is quoted as saying "he's gone through 'unbelievable hardships' to keep the spam flowing." I don't know whether to laugh at such a ludicrous statement, take pride in the fact that our spam fighting measures are proving fruitful, or scream in righteous indignation.

We are often asked by our customer how spammers get their e-mail addresses. The question is almost impossible to answer since there are numerous ways this could happen and almost no way to know for certain. However, to serve as an example of the efficiency of spammers, the folks at the AP created two accounts. Within hours, the accounts began receiving spam.

In part three, the article discusses the plight of the ISP and host. It names some of the more popular -- and controversial -- spam fighting techniques. As the article notes, much of the problems fighting spam stem from problems inherent in the Internet architecture, issues not easily fixed.

Nevertheless, spam filtering techniques such as the ones employs can prove highly effective. They can even prevent spammers from "guessing" your e-mail account. But the price is eternal vigilance. Every time we find a better way to fight spam, the spammer finds another way to send it. As the article notes, fighting spam is "a costly war of attrition."

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