8 January 2003 Two-fifths of all email is now spam – a tripling in the number of mass unsolicited commercial email (UCE) ‘attacks’ in the last year alone – according to software vendor Brightmail, which monitors spamming activity worldwide.
Individual spam attacks – in which a spammer might send several million UCEs – increased from two million to 5.9 million between December 2001 and December 2002, according to research gleaned from Brightmail’s Probe network, which monitors spammers’ activity.
According to Brightmail’s analysis, almost a third of all spam now advertises normal products, such as computers or ink-jet cartridges – an indication that a number of mainstream companies are resorting to spamming and that their Internet service providers (ISPs) are tolerating such behaviour.
Indeed, the growing spam problem is compounded by major ISPs that turn a blind eye to spamming by their clients, fail to act quickly enough against complaints or even surreptitiously sign contracts with spammers, that enable them to continue their activities while complaints are ignored.
The increase threatens to overwhelm users tired of ‘just pressing delete’ and has inspired a rash of new products, services and merger and acquisition activity such as the purchase two days ago of Deersoft, maker of the popular SpamAssassin tool, by security software giant Network Associates.
Brightmail’s findings will add fuel to increasingly strident demands from users – particularly in the US where the problem is worst – for action to outlaw spamming.
A recent Harris Interactive poll suggested that almost three-quarters of Americans want the practice of spamming made illegal. Only 12% said that they would oppose the introduction of such laws.
The European Union passed a directive late last year outlawing spam, but only after a hard-fought battle waged by direct marketers and the Labour Member of the European Parliament Michael Cashman.