"The amount of spam has increased more than four-fold during the past year," reports Jonathan Penn, a research director at Giga, a Cambridge, Mass.-based analyst firm. "The content has become more offensive. Spam messages are no longer just innocuous solicitations, but marketing of pornographic material or services. The anti-spam market will develop rapidly in the next 18 months, as content security and anti-virus vendors address this growing problem."
Penn points out that SurfControl's Email Filter and Cipher Trust's IronMail are two new spam-fighting products that already have hit the market.
Penn and other industry watchers say a slew of other products will be following close behind.
"The more tools on the market, the better," says Ray Everett-Church, chief privacy officer for ePrivacy Group and a board member for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Email. "Users are more fed up than normal. The flood of spam has increased so dramatically in the past six or eight months that people who were merely annoyed before are now on the verge of revolution."
Everett-Church says he too sees a growing wave of spam-fighting tools that are about to hit the market and he adds that it's about time vendors tackle the problem. "More tools on the market means companies and consumers have more opportunities to defend themselves against spam," he says.
Kelly Thompson, an independent anti-spam consultant and co-founder of the Forum for Responsible and Ethical Email, says she's not overly impressed with most of the anti-spam tools that are out there now.
"They vary widely in their efficacy," says Thompson. "None of them are something I would use on my inbox."
But Thompson also says she has a lot of hope for strong spam-fighting tools to start coming out.
"At some point, companies perceived that there was no business justification for blocking spam," she says. "Users are becoming more angry about it. And the volume has increased so it's costing companies more money. It's more economically justified to buy a spam-blocking tool. It's creating a market."
And a major reason for users' anger is that spam is smuttier than ever. Brightmail Inc., a San Francisco-based anti-spam company that sells software and rules to filter out spam, reported recently that email inboxes are being flooded with about 400% more unsolicited bulk email, or spam, than they were back in September.
Numbers from Mail-Abuse Prevention Systems LLC (MAPS), one of the largest anti-spam organizations out there, backs that up with its own numbers. Margie Arbon, director of operations at MAPS, recently reported that they've seen 600% to 700% more spam between April and June of this year, compared to the same time frame last year.
And a growing percentage of that spam is pornographic, with graphic subject lines and even images.
But with companies trying harder to block spam, Everett-Church warns network managers to be careful that they're not blocking legitimate email along with it.
"The real challenge is to make sure these tools don't wind up blocking legitimate email," he warns. "That's a real danger. You can block a lot of spam but if you block a lot of legitimate mail, you're not a lot better off."
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