Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Musings on spam mail titles

For a while, now, spammers have tried to defy email filters by using every day words in their email titles. I wonder, however, who would be stupid enough not to figure out that what they're receiving is spam, just by the title. Here are some examples:
  • in give be muskrat cleaner+s
  • Is talk of billhook complex
  • Re: With read he meatball
  • Re: As live my dreadnought
  • And take of concur fatherhood
  • I mean, come on. Sure, the words are probably automatically generated, but, even if they get to my inbox (which they rarely do, they end up in my junkmail folder) what's the use? Not only am I not deceived, there's no way I'm curious enough to actually open one. If I open one by mistake, I'll definitely not be taken by the offers of cheap viagra, cialis, or any other deal too good to be true. Although P.T. Barnum did mention suckers, and he was right.

    According to Postini, right now, 10 out of 14 messages, or 68.7%, are spam, and one in two smtp connection is wasted because of that. Fifty percent of spam is generated outside the US, making it difficult to control. Spam acitivity has increased 65% since 2002.

    However, Andrew Lockhart, from Postini says: "More spam is being sent. Less is being received in inboxes." A survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, taken early this year indicates the following:
  • 28% of users with a personal email account say they are getting more spam than a year ago, while 22% say they are getting less.
  • 21% of users with a work email account say they are getting more spam than a year ago, while 16% say they are getting less.
  • 53% of email users say spam has made them less trusting of email, compared to 62% a year ago.
  • 22% of email users say that spam has reduced their overall use of email, compared to 29% a year ago.
  • 67% of email users say spam has made being online unpleasant or annoying, compared to 77% a year ago.
  • Overall, more than half of all internet users (52%) complain that spam is a big problem.
  • And in a first-time measure of “phishing,” or unsolicited email requesting personal financial information, 35% of users say they have received such email, and 2% have responded by providing the information.
  • Phishing is not new, but it has expanded its operation from the African request letter to much more.

    What is phishing? Phishing is a form of on-line identity theft. Attackers send e-mails and use fake Web sites that spoof a legitimate business, such as a bank, credit card companies, ebay, or Paypal to lure unsuspecting customers into sharing personal and financial data. The sender will state that something's wrong with your account and they need to verify your personal info. After you give it to them, they use it to clean you out. Banks and cards issuers lost $1.2 billion in 2003 and the problem is growing. Techworld indicates that
    "Gartner conducted a phone poll of 5,000 people in the US in 2004 and came up with the figure $2 billion a year lost to banking scams, including online fraud and phishing. Since this includes a variety of bank and card scams, phishing will account for only a fraction that total. In the UK, Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) estimated 2004 banking fraud at £500 million ($950 million), £12 million ($22 million) of which was from online fraud, including, presumably, phishing. Banks don’t discuss the issue openly so it is hard to go much beyond these figures."
    Nevertheless, over 6.6 million email messages have been sent last month. This means over 4.48 million spam messages. Even if only one percent of recipients get taken by spam or phishing, it still means that in nearly 45,000 spams or phishes were successful. That's over 53 million a year, folks. No wonder spammers continue to send spam.

    Any internet user has the responsibility to become informed about these issues se that we can fight them, and render them ineffective. So please, don't join the ranks of the suckers and fight the waste with knowledge.

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