Spam is a problem. In fact, spam is a huge problem with global consequences. As the web and our participation in it has grown, spam has also grown. Junk mail and spam have certainly always been an issue since the early days of the web, but these days spam is more than just a simple advertisement for an irrelevant product from the other side of the world. As anti-spam measures have been embedded and become more popular, the craftiness of the spammers has increased.
More than Just a Few Emails about Viagra
If you use email on a regular basis, it’s likely that you deal with spam every day. In fact, all major web mail services have junk mail and anti-spam filters built into their systems that scan incoming emails using heuristic and special algorithms to determine whether it is junk. Of course, the problem is that sometimes they catch emails that you actually want!
Even though spam is annoying, most of us just delete it and move on without thinking about the consequences. Spam is like a stream of electronic data junk clogging up networks and systems. The more spam we deal with, the more things slow down and get congested. And where once we received unsolicited emails about the latest discoveries in hair restoration in China, we now have to deal with malware, Trojans and other nasties.
The Impact of Spam
Consider what other consequences spam has on a global scale. Think about the spam you receive in your email inbox every day. Now just imagine how much spam traffic must be processed through your Internet service provider (ISP) each week! All that spam has a real cost associated with it. For people in remote areas on slow connections who pay for the privilege of connecting to the Internet, the appearance of spam in their inboxes is not only frustrating, it also costs them real money.
For many people worldwide, the reality of connecting to the Internet to grab a few emails means that they have to pay real money out of their savings to receive those emails. If they are receiving hundreds of spam emails a week with seemingly no end in sight, can you imagine how much of their own money they are wasting on it? There’s also no doubt that as your ISP battles the influx of spam, it is passing on those charges to its customers. The ease with which spammers can use bulk emailing software to send out thousands of emails an hour leaves the global web community with a big problem that costs real money.
As spam countermeasures have improved, so too has the sneakiness of the spammers. They will sometimes even hijack a third party computer and use it to relay spam emails so that the originating email headers are more difficult for anti-spam software to identify. It’s estimated that around 30 percent of all mail traffic processed through ISPs each day is spam, and it is a constant battle to repel the spammers and get on top of their sneaky tricks. By hijacking third party computers through malware insertion and turning them into zombie servers for the purposes of relaying spam email, the spammers are committing a crime and impacting on others in a very real way that costs time and money.
Some companies have estimated that around 25 million spam emails are sent on a daily basis worldwide. Apart from being an astoundingly large number, this also means that the spammers are using other computers, mail servers and bots to handle their emails. This cost shifting costs us all money, and some even view spamming on this scale as a crime because it constitutes the very real theft of money from third parties who have received this unsolicited junk mail. Whilst effective solutions like MailCleaner’s antispam software can be installed as a gateway between the mail servers of companies and the Internet, the rest of us who can only rely on consumer grade solutions and our already flooded ISPs suffer the growing impact of spam.
As potential customers and clients suffer under the weight of weekly spam, their perception of the usefulness and importance of email as a marketing delivery vehicle becomes increasingly frayed. This has an impact on regular businesses whose intentions are simply to inform customers of new products, business information and product sales. The email fatigue due to the ongoing cascade of spam and junk mail changes consumer perception and consumer behaviour to where they are wary of signing up to email lists, even for email that is solicited and not fraudulent. Even those who do receive solicited emails from online businesses often simply skim it or delete it from their inboxes, often out of habit or simple email fatigue due to the impact of spam.
As millions of spam emails are sent per day, the impact on network congestion cannot be underestimated. Delays are caused as mail servers globally are inundated with spam daily, and network speeds drop significantly in areas where telecommunications infrastructure is underdeveloped and outdated.
Solutions to the Spam Problem
Fighting the problem at its source is an ongoing issue, and one that sees well-known spammers in court. But there are, of course, many more who simply go undetected and go on using the infrastructure owned by others to relay their spam. Enterprise software like MailCleaner represents a growing trend in anti-spam solutions where spam is detected and quarantined before it enters the electronic infrastructure of the business.
Gateway solutions to spam like this are popular amongst ISPs and are an effective way of reducing the torrent of junk. For the rest of us, anti-spam gateways installed on our own computers can be difficult to use and difficult to set up correctly. This is where we rely on enterprise solutions to stop spam from ever reaching our inboxes. Spam is a big problem worldwide, and finding a reliable solution is key to limiting its impact.