RealTime IT News

U.S. Sending More Than Half of All Spam

While the flood of spam has increased sharply during the last six months, a new survey also shows that slightly more than half of it worldwide is coming out of the U.S.

In January of this year, there were nearly 350,000 unique spam outbreaks every day, according to a report from Commtouch Software Ltd, an anti-spam company based in Mountain View, Calif. As of last month, however, that number had jumped to 500,000.

And according to Commtouch's survey, which country has the most spam offenders?

The United States, sending out 55.7 percent of all spam moving around the world. South Korea came in a far second, sending out 10.2 percent, and China ranked third with 6.6 percent.

Michael Osterman, founder and president of Black Diamond, Wa.-based Osterman Research, Inc., says the U.S. is a major source of spam because of the great number of high-speed connections here.

''So much spam is being generated by people who don't even know they're spammers,'' says Osterman. ''They don't know that their computers have been compromised and they're being used as zombies sending out spam all over the world.''

As for the amount of spam that is flooding corporate networks and personal inboxes, that he is surprised about.

''It is surprising. It's surprising that it's as low as it is,'' he adds. ''The wide deployment of spam filters is causing spammers to send out even more spam simply to get some through.''

A report released last month by MessageLabs, Inc., an email management and security company based in New York, showed that nine out of 10 emails in the U.S. are now spam. Globally, 76 percent of all emails are spam.

And Osterman says the problem is only going to get worse.

''In the next year to a year and a half, spam will account for 98 percent of all email,'' he says. ''That's being pessimistic some would say. The optimistic forecast is that it will only get to 95 percent.

''But it's not all doom and gloom,'' Osterman adds. ''You have to look at the effectiveness of spam filters... If you're an enterprise user, the spam problem is probably about over if your organization has implemented a strong spam filter. It's like a missile shield over your company.''

But erecting that missile shield and paying IT workers to run it is a problem for IT organizations that is only getting worse, according to Mark Levitt, vice president for collaborative computing at Framingham, Ma.-based IDC.

''There's still the same issue of wasted time in terms of users opening messages with misleading subject lines,'' says Levitt. ''And there are wasted IT resources trying to block this spam, the waste of storage and bandwidth, and the money spent fighting spam.''

Levitt says the positive side of the Commtouch study is the section showing that the amount of pornographic spam is down.

The Commtouch study shows that offers for drugs top the list, accounting for 29.5 percent of all spam. Mortgage/refinancing comes in second with 9.7 percent, and organ enlargement comes in third with 7 percent. Pornography is in ninth place with 3.1 percent.

''It's a step in the right direction,'' says Levitt. ''It's less offensive.''

But Osterman says not to expect the amount of pornography to continue dropping.

''This could be a short-term anomaly anyhow,'' he notes. ''There are very few large spammers. If a few of the big players have a change in strategy and turn to different offerings, it could change the mix dramatically. Over the long term, I think the percentage of pornographic spam is going to increase. Selling physical goods that have to be shipped complicates things. But you can be in any part of the world and easily sell access to a porn Web site.''