ISPs Making Progress on Spam

Internet service providers are making progress in slowing spam, according to a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study.

The report found that spammers continue to harvest e-mail addresses from public areas of the Internet, but addresses posted in chatrooms, message boards, USENET groups and blogs were unlikely to be taken.

“Indeed, some chatroom operators took proactive measures to prevent the harvesting of e-mail addresses posted by the FTC staff,” the study says.

The report also found that consumers who post their e-mail addresses on the Internet can effectively “mask” them. The technique involves altering an address to confuse automated address harvesting software.

For the study, the FTC created 150 new e-mail accounts. The accounts were spread over ISPs, including those that used anti-spam filters and those that didn’t. The FTC then posted the new e-mail addresses on 50 sites, including message boards, blogs, chatrooms and USENET groups.

After a five-week trial, e-mail addresses at the unfiltered ISP received a total of 8,885 spam messages. E-mail addresses at one of the ISPs that used filters received 1,208 spam messages and addresses at a second ISP that employed filters received 422 spam messages.

The filter of the first ISP blocked 86.4 percent of the spam and the filter of the second ISP blocked 95.2 percent of the spam.

Unmasked e-mail addresses received more than 6,400 pieces of spam while the masked e-mail addresses received only one piece of spam, the study found.

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