Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nearly 95 Percent of Email, Spam Now Rated Worst Form of Junk Advertising

Barracuda Networks, Inc., a provider of email and Web security appliances, has released its annual spam report. The findings included: 1) The majority of business professionals view spam email as the worst form of junk advertising - worse than postal junk mail and telemarketing calls, and 2) spam email accounted for 90 to 95 percent of all email in 2007, up from an estimated five percent of email in 2001.

The study, based on an analysis of more than one billion daily email messages sent to its more than 50,000 customers worldwide, found that 90 to 95 percent of all email sent in 2007 was spam, increasing from an estimated 85 to 90 percent of email in 2006. This growing proportion is even more significant when compared to 2004, when the federal CAN-SPAM Act, which set parameters for sending unsolicited email and defined penalties for spammers, went into effect. At that time spam was 70 percent of all email. In 2001, spam accounted for only five percent of email messages.

Barracuda Networks also conducted a separate poll of business professionals and found that of the 261 respondents, 57 percent view spam email as the worst form of junk advertising, close to double the 31 percent that cited postal junk mail. Only 12 percent chose telemarketing.
Barracuda Networks’ poll also showed that 50 percent of users received five or fewer spam emails in their inbox each day. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) received less than 10 spam messages each day, while 13 percent were inundated with 50 or more spam emails daily.

Barracuda Networks’ report also tracked the evolving complexity of spam techniques over the past several years, finding that the majority of spam emails in 2007 utilized identity obfuscation techniques, in which spammers send email from diverse sources throughout the Internet, thus hiding their own identity from traditional reputation checks that profile sender network addresses. Further, by registering new domains or by redirecting to spam Web domains through reputable blogs, free Web site providers, or URL redirection services, spammers can effectively hide their identities from traditional reputation checks that profile spam Web domains.

Spammers also increased the usage of attachments, such as PDF files and other file formats in 2007. Prominent spam techniques from previous years include:

  • 2006 - Image spam, botnets
  • 2005 - Rotating URL spam
  • 2004 - Automated generation of spam variants
  • 2003 - Open relays, blast emails, spoofing

Spammers are increasingly emulating retail store fronts by tailoring their content around national holidays. For example, Barracuda Networks detected a significant increase in the number of emails directing recipients to phishing Web sites on Thanksgiving Day 2007 as scammers rushed to cash in on the ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ online consumer shopping sprees. In January, consumers can expect to be flooded with New Year’s Resolution spam in the form of weight loss ads and offers for online college degrees.

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