December 12, 2006

Spam: Worse than Ever; No End in Sight?

Bill Gates missed very badly on his 2004 predix that spam “would be solved” in two years (yes, he proposed a user fee, but he also had some pretty decent-sounding technical ideas; what happened?).

Spam quantity this year will be up 143%, and is up 73% in just the past three months. What’s more, more spam is getting through the filters because of embedding messages in pictures and other tricks:

….. image- and document-based spam—the latter is when a junk mailer tucks the marketing message inside a document attached to a message—accounted for as much as 45% of all spam in the fourth quarter, up from less than 2% a year ago.

“The combination of the [high] volume and the type of spam now coming in is what’s causing companies’ defenses to melt down,” Druker says. “They just can’t keep up with the rising tide.”

Expect more employers to limit employee access to the company’s Intranet, or at least to company e-mail addresses (if segregation is possible) if the problem continues or gets worse. One would hope that Windows Vista has some kind of answer for all of this. The toll spam takes on the US and worldwide economy may become significant enough that leaders in countries where the high volume of garbage is coming from may be forced to rethink what has obviously been thus far a hands-off approach.



  1. Don’t expect employer-imposed limits on e-mail usage. The spam problem is an annoyance and not so terrible that a company is willing to risk productivity or revenue losses because of it. I doubt Vista can/will address the spam problem. Technologies are being continuously developed to mitigate the spam problem. Whether companies outsource mail hosting to specialty companies, i.e. Postini, or deploy more improved mail gateways with better spam filtering algorithms, they can solve this problem. Of course people might realize that they have skin in the game and decide to not acknowledge the messages. There is a demand for spam. If people did not click links for larger erections or to launder money for their newfound Nigerian friend, there would be no reason for spam to exist.

    Comment by Kevin — December 12, 2006 @ 7:38 am

  2. I don’t know if there is a technology fix for spam, but there is a simpler fix – stop buying stuff offered through spam. Everybody says they just delete the spam. However, some people must be responding or it would have ended. It continues because it on some level is cost effective. Baring a tech fix we either need to make it unsuccessful or make the punishment harsh enough to discourage the perpetrators.

    Comment by LargeBill — December 12, 2006 @ 8:25 am

  3. #1, and #2, two points, if more are getting through and not getting filtered, that’s more time wasted, even if they are deleted. Second, because of the math, it’s not enough to convince even 99% of everyone never to click on spam, it has to be 99.9999% or more because of how many messages are being sent out and the virtual-zero cost of sending them. That level of compliance will never happen.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 12, 2006 @ 9:21 am

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