'Spam' likely to clutter e-mail for some time
Sarawak Tribune - Tuesday, 10 December, 2002
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Sick of being inundated with get­rich-quick schemes and Viagra ads in your e-mail? Well, get used to it because, despite concerted efforts to fight it, "spam" is expected to get worse before it gets better, analysts say. The average American will get more than 2,200 spam, or unsolicited bulk e­mail, messages this year and 3,600 by 2007, Jupiter Research forecasts.

"It's getting easier to send spam messages. You can buy a CD-ROM with millions of e-mail addresses for next to nothing and send it out for next to nothing," said Jared Blank, senior analyst at Jupiter.

Spammers continue to come up with new and ingenious ways to bypass filters by misspelling words, sending e­mails from what appears to be yourself and putting messages in the subject lines that make people think the mail is from a friend.

Working just as furiously, companies are trying to help consumers and businesses, including some Internet services, to combat spam by coming up with new technologies creating a hot new sector with players like Brightmail Inc. and programs from McAfee.

Brightmail, for example, works with companies and Internet service providers to fight spam at the desktop and also offers a product that consumers can be run to protect against computer viruses.

"Spammers are clever people and there is clearly an arms race between spammers and people trying to prevent spam that just constantly escalates," said Forrester analyst Jim Nail. "Having simple lists of spammers and domains that's not enough because spammers change domains or addresses to stay ahead of (efforts)."

Filters that work on a keyword basis to block spam depending on how frequently certain words appear don't work because spammers misspell words or write shorter e-mails so there are not as many occurrences. Blacklists, which only get 10 percent of spam and often get rid of valid e-mails as well, won't work, analysts said.

"It is worse. Newer tactics include harvesting attacks, which are trying to find out names and addresses of people who live in this enterprise," said Joyce Graff, analyst at Gartner. "It's like a virus game, so if you don't have a lab looking for new ploys whatever you implement won't be working for you in six months."

Brightmail said its recent data shows that spam has gone up from 8 percent of all Internet e-mail to about 40 percent. "One of the challenges we find is that spam is global. A lot of it gets routed through unsecure servers," said Enrique Salem, chief executive of Brightmail. "So, as that happens, it's outside of any one country's jurisdiction."

The industry was collaborating with government agencies around the world to cut down on the problem, he added. Analysts said there is hope for some relief in the future as regulators begin to take notice.

"While spammers are hard to track down and prosecute, you get a few of them and it will scare off others," Nail said. Earlier this month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sued six junk e-mailers who bombarded Internet users with illegal pyramid schemes, fraudulent loans and e-mail filters that actually attracted spam instead of blocking it.

While spam is widely viewed as a nuisance, it is not illegal under U.S. laws. - Reuters