• United States

Why, oh why, do they spam?

Apr 29, 20042 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalwareMessaging Apps

* An interesting glimpse into the spammer's world

In late March, Vircom published a report entitled ‘Why Spammers Spam.’ The report provided some interesting insight into the spam problem from the perspective of those who actually produce the stuff.

Here are some highlights from the report, which is available on the Vircom Web site:

* Not surprisingly, spammers can get into the spamming business for a nominal investment – typically just the cost of computer and an ISP connection – and they can pay back their investment within a few days, in some cases.

* Spammers work hard to stay under the radar of their ISPs. For example, one spammer quoted in the study will send out quick bursts of 100 messages every 20 seconds using multiple ISPs. This spammer claims that she can send messages at the rate of 2.6 million messages per day.

* Defeating spam filters is one of the most important tasks for any spammer. Although the spammers quoted in the study were reluctant to talk about their techniques, among those that they did share were top-to-bottom HTML coding, using embedded images, using zero-size fonts for text between letters and misspelling.

* One of the interesting things that come across in the report is that many spammers are simply everyday people who view spamming as a means of making extra cash, including students, homemakers and part-time workers.

* The amount that a spammer makes each year varies widely. One of the spammers with whom Vircom spoke averaged revenue of $1,200 per week during 2003.

* Spam is a largely seasonal business: weight-loss schemes sell well after the holidays, tax software sells well before April 15, and adult films seem to sell well all the time.

The report is interesting because it illustrates that most spamming operations are run by relatively typical people who don’t make huge amounts of money at what they do. Because most spamming operations are so small and so difficult to find, it also demonstrates how ineffective legislation will be at ultimately solving the spam problem.