Line of Fire

Two of Every Three Office E-mails are Spam
by: Jerry Liao

Did it ever occured to you that when you open your email, hundreds or even thousands of emails are awaiting for you inside your inbox? Perhaps it makes you wonder for a while how come all of sudden you gained so much friends or why the sudden popularity? Before you even start wondering, let me share with you that even before you open your inbox – most of the emails there are SPAM emails.

Spam by e-mail is a type of spam that involves sending identical or nearly identical messages to thousands (or millions) of recipients. Addresses of recipients are often harvested from Usenet postings or web pages, obtained from databases, or simply guessed by using common names and domains. By definition, spam is sent without the permission of the recipients.

But did you know that aside from the hassle and the danger that spam emails may even include viruses, a research firm indicated that monetary losses are getting big due to spam emails. Nucleus Research
announced that the spam epidemic is costing US businesses $712 per employee each year in lost worker

According to a survey of 849 e-mail users conducted during March 2007, Nucleus Research and KnowledgeStorm found that two out of every three e-mail messages received by today’s business users are spam. As a result, users are spending 16 seconds identifying and deleting each spam e-mail, which translates into an annual cost of $70 billion to all US businesses.

“Although most organizations have deployed some spam filtering technology, it clearly has not solved the
spam problem – in fact, in some cases it’s made it worse,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of Research of
Nucleus Research. “Spam is no longer just a technology problem – it’s a problem that we should be attacking with more than just technology.”

Some additional key findings in the report include:

– Looking at the total e-mail traffic, Nucleus estimates that at least 90 percent of e-mail reaching corporate servers is spam.

– The average user receives 21 spam messages to their inbox each day.

– Many e-mail filtering technologies block anything with the word “Nigeria” in the title or text.

“The Companies and their employees are beyond fed-up with the spam problem,” said Jeff Ramminger, executive vice president, KnowledgeStorm. “In fact, almost 20 percent of respondents believe jail time is an appropriate punishment for serial spammers. While that’s probably not a realistic outcome, it indicates
that frustration with spam has reached a boiling point.”

The most common types of spam identified by respondents were adult oriented solicitations (86 percent), financial lending solicitations (80 percent), and retail offers (76 percent).

In a separate study, MessageLabs announced the results of its MessageLabs Intelligence Report for March 2007. Quarter on quarter spam levels have raised to 76.3 percent, their highest in two years. Virus and botnet activity has also increased. The report highlights the impact of increased spam levels on small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) as these organizations receive more than double the volume of spam per user each month than in enterprise organizations.

Also in Q1 2007, MessageLabs saw virus and trojan traffic levels steadily decline from last year with
rates of 1 in 126.1 emails. While the overall levels decreased, MessageLabs believes that virus and Trojan activity is actually on the rise with spammers delivering them disguised as spam. Phishing activity accounted for 70.8 percent of the malware threats this quarter, an increase of 8.6 percent on the previous quarter. In early 2007, “do-it-yourself” phishing kits became more available and easier to obtain online. MessageLabs also saw continued targeted phishing attacks based on information available on social networking sites and new variants of Warezov and StormWorm being intercepted at alarmingly high rates.

Other report highlights:

Spam: In March 2007, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and unknown bad sources, for which the recipient addresses were deemed valid, was 75.2 percent (1 in 1.33 emails), a decrease of 2.6 percent on the previous month. Techniques adopted by spammers have become increasingly more sophisticated indicating spam will continue at similar levels in the coming months. As botnets become more agile, fewer viruses are now needed to maintain them giving way to a divergence between spam and virus levels.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad
sources destined for valid recipients, was 1 in 145.0 emails (0.6 percent) in March, a decrease of 0.2
percent since last month. Virus and Trojan traffic levels have steadily declined over the last year with
Q1 2007 rates of 1 in 126.1 emails. This is in direct correlation with the shift toward more subtle,
targeted attacks and in the way that criminals distribute malware.

Phishing: March saw a fall of 0.17 percent in the proportion of phishing attacks compared with the previous month. One in 203.7 (0.32 percent) emails comprised some form of phishing attack. When judged as a proportion of all email-borne threats such as viruses and trojans, the number of phishing emails has fallen to 46.9 percent of the malware threats in March. Overall for the quarter, phishing activity accounted for 70.8 percent of the malware threats.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: