Matt De Bernardo: Spam and PC Security Guide


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Just why IS spam an issue?

It's just email, and email is free, right? WRONG!

Hopefully by now, you've came to the conclusion that spam really is a massive problem that really won't be going anywhere in the foreseeable future. In case you haven't, or if you surfed directly into this page, here are some facts to help justify my statements.

The Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group [MAAWG] is a global organization that brings email and other messaging service providers together to address spam and other messaging abuse, and they regularly publish reports on email metrics, but from the perspective of the network operator, rather than the end user. At the time of the writing of this page, their most recent report was Report 15 and covered the period of the first, second and third quarters (i.e. January to September) 2011 and was issued in November 2011. They reported the following:

"..abusive email remained fairly consistent, ranging from about 90% to 88%, and the same can be said for the number of unaltered delivered emails per mailbox, in roughly an inverse manner… This report covers almost a half a billion mailboxes worldwide."

The University of Yale in the USA release a report every fiscal year on email that is delivered to their email addresses (for students, staff etc). In December 2010, their email servers received approximately 41.6 million emails. Out of that huge figure, only a dismal 7.2 million were deemed genuine and allowed through their strict anti-spam and anti-malware software. So that's 34.4 MILLION spam emails. That means that over EIGHTY PERCENT of all incoming email processed was identified as spam.
[Source: Yale ITS Metrics:]

The Radicati Group, Inc, in Analyst Review of Hotmail Anti-Spam Technology whitepaper they published in 2009, not only estimates that out of 247 Billion email messages sent world wide per day, 199 Billion of them were spam, about 81%. Interestingly, Radicati also used data they collected and collated to estimate the future trend of spam volumes, with dismal results. They estimate in 2012 that 419 Billion emails will be sent per day, and that 347 Billion of them will be spam (83%), and that in 2014 that figure will jump to 85% spam (613 Billion sent, 517 Billion will be spam). So they estimate that the amount of spam sent per day in 2012 will be greater than the total amount of email sent per day in 2010!
Source: []

As it’s impossible to monitor every single email inbox worldwide, it’s difficult to get a very precise figure on just how much of the world’s email can be considered spam. Although this report has only collated statistics from a limited number of sources, it remains clear that the majority of email traffic around the world is clearly spam. And as one can see, it's only going to get worse.

On to the next section, How Do Spammers Do Their Dirty Work?.