Got Spam?


How’s your email inbox doing these days? Spamhaus says that spam (also called Unsolicited Commercial Email or UCE) makes up 90% of the email sent in most parts of the world. Since Spamhaus is in the business of providing anti-spam services, it might have a tendency to overestimate the amount of spam.

I have several email accounts for various purposes. One of these is a “junk” account on yahoo that I use for most online purchases and registering at questionable web sites. Examining that inbox, I see 97 messages in the inbox and 647 messages places in the spam folder by Yahoo’s spam filter. Of the 97 messages in the inbox, about half of those are really spam. Another 31 spam messages were sent to a “disposable email address” that I had used at one time. Adding that up, that is a total of 727 spam messages out of 775, which corresponds to 94% spam. Now this is probably a pessimistic measure as this email account is more likely to attract spam and has relatively low legitimate email usage. Still, it is quite amazing how much junk mail it accumulates.

My “real” email accounts have much less spam in them, but it is more difficult to tell the actual percentage. I don’t know for sure what anti-spam measures my ISP uses. On my end, I use Thunderbird’s junk mail controls which seems to catch the majority of the spam. There are quite a few methods available for reducing spam.

The root cause of this is that the internet email protocols were designed with an inherent trust of all users. All of the header information that indicates who sent the email can be easily spoofed, so there is very little accountability in the system. I doubt that the early email inventors anticipated the flood of viagra messages that would occur decades later. This is a classic example of unintended consequences of a new technology. (See Tom Van Vleck’s The History of Electronic Mail for more information.)

So now we spend our time and energy filtering and deleting this nuisance. Even more disturbing are the phishing scams that are showing up in my inbox. There are some very credible fake emails supposedly from major banks and financial institutions that try to get you to log into a fake web page and share your personal account information. Watch out for these!

Various solutions have been proposed to solve the spam problem. Sometimes I think capital punishment might be the answer, but I am not quite ready to propose that……yet. Stay tuned for further updates :-)

How’s your inbox doing?

73, Bob K0NR

  1. #1 by Steve K9ZW on 26 October 2008 - 2:28 pm

    Very close to personally going to checking my email, SMS, voicemail and such once or twice a day.

    All are being spammed, and unlike junkmail I can’t even burn the stuff for heat!

    Nothing to received 10,000+ spam a day to almost any domain, but fortunately most ISPs kill a huge slug before it goes to our secondary & further downstream filters.

    Just installed a pair of SonicWall devices – TZ and ES pair – to help deal with it.

    73

    Steve
    K9ZW

  2. #2 by Scot, K9JY on 30 October 2008 - 10:13 pm

    My hosting service offers a service from Postini that I enjoy. It keeps all (99%) of the spam out of my e-mail box and then sends me a summary at the end of the day.

    There are two reasons I like it. First, it captures spam. Second, it doesn’t unilaterally discard e-mail that it thinks is spam. There are too many instances of stuff looking like spam when it isn’t.

    And, the service learns. You go to the web site where it holds the spam and can select e-mails to deliver (or read first on their site…). You can then designate the sender as good and you create a white list for the mail.

    But, there is a lot of spam, no doubt. The service gets it down to looking at stuff (if you choose to) for about five minutes a day. That works.

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