Assault On Corporate Email Intensifies

Corporate email is more infected with viruses, spam and porn than ever before, according to a new study out by MessageLabs Inc.
Posted November 14, 2002

Sharon Gaudin

Corporate email is more infected with viruses, spam and porn than ever before, according to a new study out by MessageLabs Inc.

Out of 212 million emails that MessageLabs scanned last month, 15 million of them contained potentially harmful content, according to John Harrington, a U.S. director at MessageLabs, which is a managed services provider specializing in email and security. And the same study found a 42% increase in viruses between this past January and last month. One in every 134.5 emails are infected with a virus.

"Every day a new virus is released," says Harrington. "They all aren't effective so they might not expand across the Internet but theyre there These numbers, highlighted by the Bugbear outbreak, illustrate that global virus epidemics are still on the rise."

And viruses aren't the only problems plaguing IT and security administrators.

The MessageLabs study found that the amount of spam deluging corporate inboxes is way up. There was 64% more spam in October than just nine months ago.

"Spam is exploding," says Angela Hauge, technical director at MessageLabs, which is based in the U.K. but has its U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis. "Thirty to 60% of incoming email is spam, according to our customers. We verified that with this study. It's definitely more than we thought it would be."

But if the folks at MessageLabs were surprised, many others wouldn't be.

Brightmail, Inc., a San Francisco-based anti-spam company that sells software and rules to filter out spam, reported this summer that email inboxes were being flooded with about 400% more unsolicited bulk email than less than a year earlier. And Mail-Abuse Prevention Systems LLC (MAPS) has reported that spam increased 600% to 700% between April and June of this year compared to the same time frame last year.

"It's kind of terrifying," said Margie Arbon, director of operations at MAPS. "It's a huge drain on companies trying to deal with it...Companies are struggling with this even more now."

And companies also are struggling with the amount of porn that flooding in with their corporate email.

And increasing amount of spam is now porn-related. While MessageLabs' survey found that spam with pornographic images attached may be down, the amount of porn messages is up.

"Pornographic spam is really prevalent right now," says Harrington. "On just a gut feeling, I'd say that one-third of spam is porn. And in the corporate world, there's a huge liability associated with that. It's coming through a corporate network to a corporate-owned machine and it could be creating a hostile work environment. It would be like someone receiving Penthouse or Hustler in his office mailbox every day. It's no different."

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