Blog:

SPAM leaves a nasty taste in the mouth

spam

Digital Spam - Yum Yum.

…and everyone sing “SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM, SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM……..”

Anyone with an email address and working on the internet today experiences the annoyance and frustration that is  SPAM on a regular basis. What most people may not appreciate or understand is the true cost of SPAM to the internet, businesses and individuals of this virulent, abusive form of email.

In this article we want to expose some of the less well known facts about SPAM, discuss the damage that SPAM does to us all and we also hope to give you guidance and encouragement on what you can do to help reduce the impact it has on our lives.

How big a problem is email SPAM?

To give you some context of the numbers involved it is estimated that up to 95% of ALL emails sent today are unsolicited (SPAM).
That is a HUGE volume of SPAM emails sent every second, minute and hour of every day. This traffic clogs up our internet data networks, reducing network speeds, slowing down our connections and forcing the cost of bandwidth and internet costs up.
Some are frivolous nuisance emails, some are specifically for phishing purposes and many are simply trying to spread malicious code and viruses.  One of the most powerful features of email; low cost and efficient method to deliver a message, is also it’s greatest drawback. Abuse of email systems has been growing and growing with cyber-criminals and cyber-vandals finder ever more clever and automated ways to utilise SPAM for their own ends.

It has been estimated that the authors of the Viagra SPAM emails anticipate a return on one in ever 10 million emails sent. That means that it only takes one person in 10 million to click on the email and purchase their product to make it worth their while to continue their spamming exploits.

The industry is trying to respond.
In February Microsoft won court approval to shut down a virulent BotNet which it claims was sending more than 1.5 billion SPAM email messages every day!
[source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8537741.stm]

In New Zealand last year a SPAM trafficking group was given a fine of $19 million in an attempt to lay down the law to all SPAM creators.
[source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/30/spam_fine/]

Unfortunately although some battles have been won, the war on Spam continues as the perpetrators find new, improved methods to spread their messages across the internet.
e.g. Spam levels bounce back after BotNet Takedown – http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/02/3fn_takedown/

What can you do?

“Is there anything we, as individuals, can do to stop SPAM? Should we be resigned to the fact that SPAM at this level is just ‘the way it is’ and simply become silent victims?” –  Well, Yes and No!
– We can use SPAM filters.
– We can persuade our ISP and email providers to use BlackLists
– We can apply political pressure to the Government to instruct ISP’s to deal with this issue with more control
– Make sure your email address is not displayed online in a format that email harvesting bots can scan.
– Ensure your computers are fully virus and malware protected
– Employ better techniques and forms for allowing emails to be sent through your website (See below)
– Utilise DomainKeys email authentication
– Implement and utilise the Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

You can also ensure that any forms on your website that collate and email information to and from your website are suitably protected to stop malicious use of the code that sends the email.
You can implement the most up-to-date formMail scripts.

Another common method to avoid SPAM being sent through form scripts is to use a form of Captcha
Captcha: http://www.captcha.net/
Recaptcha: http://recaptcha.net/

By working together, implementing the latest standards to counteract Spam, being ruthless about prosecuting Spam perpetrators and using a large dollop of common sense we may be able to go a long away in trying to rid the internet of this scourge.

About Fergus

As the Managing Director of teclan ltd Fergus has been identifying and exploring new and emerging opportunities in the ecommerce market for over 10 years.