Spam Reaches Record Levels

Dennis Faas's picture

As much as 95% of all email is spam, according to new research. Barracuda Networks, an email and web security firm, analysed more than a billion emails sent to its customers this year. They found between 90-95% was spam, compared with 85-90% last year.

They also carried out a survey of their customers, which include major firms IBM, Coca Cola, and Harvard University. They found that 57% considered spam the worst form of unsolicited advertising, more than junk mail and telemarketing put together.

Though they found that most people receive five or fewer spam emails each day, an unfortunate 13% received more than 50 a day. It's not clear if this includes messages which are automatically filtered into spam folders.

The firm also reported on new trends in spammer techniques. The most significant development is the increasing complexity of the tricks spammers use to hide their identity, such as using free website providers or well-known blogs to relay the messages. This makes it more difficult for anti-spam software to automatically filter out messages from addresses known for spamming.

There has also been an increase in spam using attachments, like PDF files. Seasonal trends are common; phishing (sending requests for personal details that appear to be from an online bank or other company) was particularly widespread just after Thanksgiving, with consumers more likely to be shopping online. Meanwhile, Barracuda predicts there will be a flood of weight-loss related spam in January to cash in on people trying to stick to New Year's resolutions. (Source:

Other firms have disputed the report; rivals Symantec say spam makes up about 71% of all emails. However, they do agree that it's on the increase and that the people behind it continue to find new techniques. Another firm, MXSweep, says the biggest problem this year has been spam with mp3 files attached. Though it only makes up about eight per cent of all messages, the attachments do clog up the average Internet connection. (Source:

Figures in studies like this will always be questionable because security firms obviously have a commercial interest in computer users being concerned about spam. Still, there seems no doubt it's still a growing problem and existing legislation seems to be having little effect.

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