Unstoppable spam still hitting hard

Since Gary Thuerk, a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corp., sent the first batch of unsolicited e-mails — a.k.a. spam — while preparing for a company trade show in 1978, the nuisance has skyrocketed to the extent of making it a criminal offence to send the aggressively unpopular junk mail in some regions.

Although regulations, including the U.S.’s Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Por- nography and Marketing Act or CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, were meant to significantly lessen or eliminate the problem of unsolicited e-mail, a recent report shows that this dream for many enterprises and individuals has not yet been realized.

Global e-mail security company CipherTrust Inc. in Atlanta released a report in early August that shows spam is not only still running wild, but that Canada has the fourth highest amount of spam volume globally.

As the country of origin of 2.28 per cent of spam, Canada places behind China at 2.63 per cent, Korea at 3.02 per cent and the U.S. at 85.93 per cent. In the survey Turkey and Mexico had the smallest spam volumes with .09 per cent and .08 per cent respectively.

Canada has never been called out as a significant contributor to the world spam problem, so although it is in fourth place, it is not surprising its spam volumes are low, noted John Mozena, co-founder and vice-president of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE).

“I think what [the study] does point out is the degree to which the U.S. [is] really kind of responsible for the world’s misery when it comes to spam and pointed out the need for us to really do something about spam from a legislative, legal point of view,” he said.

Although the United States has the highest percentage of spam volume, it slides to second place after Korea when it comes to the percentage of total IP addresses sending bulk mail.

This, according to CipherTrust research engineer Dmitri Alperovitch, means that American “kingpin spammers” have the technology to allow few spammers to send millions of e-mails.

When Intrawest Corp., a developer and operator of destination resorts based in Vancouver, started looking at its spam volumes in August 2003, it quickly realized that it not only had an annoyance on its hands but that dealing with the junk mail was costing the company hundreds of dollars per day.

As of August 2003 Intrawest was getting a daily average of 7,216 spam messages, explained Philip De Connick, systems architect at Intrawest.

In May 2004 that number had jumped from 7,216 up to approximately 30,000 messages per day.

Based on conservative numbers including how many people at Intrawest were using e-mail, how many spam messages they would receive daily and how long they would take to deal with those messages, De Connick calculated that spam was costing the company $900 per day.

Intrawest implemented CipherTrust’s IronMail e-mail security solution last year and now the application catches about 48,000 spam messages a day, De Connick said. Because Intrawest has IronMail set to a very low setting that detects only “blatant spam messages” e-mail users are still dealing with some spam — one to two messages per day — but the number has dwindled significantly.

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