• United States

Is the spam problem slowing?

Dec 09, 20032 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalwareMessaging Apps

* Spam still growing, but not as fast as it was

No matter whose statistics you review, the conclusion is the same: the problem with spam is getting worse.

Brightmail’s statistics, for example, show that spam constituted only 16% of all e-mail processed by its network in January 2002, but spam had increased to 42% of all e-mail a year later, with an enormous increase occurring during spring 2002.

But the most recent Brightmail statistics show that in November 2003, spam constituted 56% of all e-mail, up “only” 33% during the previous 11 months.

Based on these statistics, the trend indicates that the percentage of e-mail represented by spam may indeed be slowing significantly. In October 2003, the percentage of spam received by Brightmail’s network actually dropped slightly.

What does this mean? First, a rapid increase in the percentage of spam could never be sustained indefinitely for the mere fact that the percentage of e-mail that is spam can never be more than 100%. As a result, the percentage of spam won’t just keep increasing ever more quickly and then immediately plateau at 100%, since increases typically tend to slow as they get larger.

However, the statistics may also reveal the growing effectiveness of efforts to block spam, both in terms of the growing number of e-mail accounts that are protected from unwanted e-mail, as well as in the improving effectiveness of spam-blocking tools. The growth in both the number and quality of these tools means that spamming just can’t be as profitable as it once was.

Say a spammer had generated $100 in revenue from spamming 100,000 unprotected e-mail accounts in January 2002, and 70% of those accounts are now protected with a spam-blocking technology. If the spam blockers eliminate 95% of spam, that same level of spamming activity now generates only $33.50 in revenue.

Clearly, the spam problem is not going to disappear. However, the statistics indicate that spam is perhaps going to be less of a problem – at least less of a growing problem – in the future.