Microsoft: 3% of e-mail is stuff we want; the rest is spam

According to Microsoft, 97 percent of all e-mail sent on the Internet is spam. This number is higher than data collected by other firms, but everyone's in agreement that spam-wielding botnets are growing.

Spam makes up close to 100 percent of all e-mail traffic on the Internet, according to Microsoft. In a new security report, Microsoft said that 97 percent of e-mails sent were destined for the junk folder, though most never made it to their destinations thanks to server-side filtering.

As usual, the latest waves of spam are rife with advertisements for pharmaceutical products (48.6 percent of the total). Microsoft noted that a larger percentage of spam was blocked by its own Exchange Hosted Filtering (EHF) services in the second half of 2008 for most categories, with some 40 percent of "non-sexual" pharmacy spam being blocked (apparently, sexual pharmacy spam figured out how to get around EHF filters during that time—Microsoft recorded a drop in blocked e-mails from this category).

While our inboxes sometimes feel flooded with spam, Microsoft's numbers are higher than those from other firms. MessageLabs Intelligence recently said that spam had spiked in February (thanks to Valentine's Day-related messages), accounting for 79.5 percent of all e-mail traffic before settling down to an average of 73.3 percent for the month as a whole. This was lower than the 74.6 percent recorded in January. At the same time, however, MessageLabs noted that large botnets were beginning to increase spam volume since the McColo shutdown last November, which temporarily lowered spam volume.

Symantec's latest State of Spam report (PDF) released today seems to corroborate the trend. "Since the shutdown of hosting company McColo in mid-November 2008, spam volumes have slowly made their way back to 'normal,'" wrote Symantec. "Old botnets are being brought back online, and new botnets are being created. Spam volumes are now at 91 percent of their pre-McColo shutdown levels."

According to Symantec, the volume of spam emanating from the US continues to increase. The US was responsible for 28 percent of all spam in March of 2009 (up from 25 percent in February and 23 percent in January), while Brazil held steady at nine percent and India dropped to four percent. Spam coming out of China has consistently dropped over the last several months as well, now resting at a mere three percent.

Symantec says that the latest spamming trends largely focus on immediate financial worries: mortgages, foreclosures, and taxes.

Whether the number is 97 percent or 80 percent, there's a whole lotta spam clogging the tubes. And, as filtering technology at the ISP level continues to mature, spam-wielding botnets will continue to grow in an attempt to make up for the drop in clickthroughs.

Source: ars technica

Tags: e-mail, spam

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