Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Enterprise Spam Diet Heavy On Porn

The amount of spam hitting company networks in the past several months has
exploded and those fighting the spam battle say it’s also smuttier than
ever.

Today, email inboxes are being flooded with about 400% more unsolicited bulk
email, or spam, than they were back in September, according to new numbers
published by Brightmail Inc., a San Francisco-based anti-spam company that
sells software and rules to filter out spam.

And brand new numbers from one
of the largest anti-spam organizations, Mail-Abuse Prevention Systems LLC
(MAPS), shows that 600% to 700% more spam was sent out between April and
June of this year compared to the same time frame last year.

“It’s definitely higher than I thought it would be. It’s kind of
terrifying,” says Margie Arbon, director of operations at MAPS. “This is a
huge drain on companies trying to deal with it. Most companies are paying
for bandwidth. They’re having to pay to have this stuff delivered. They’re
having to buy bigger harddrives, bigger hardware, extra servers and the
manpower to handle it…Companies are struggling with this even more now.”

A Side(bar) Of Spam
Spam-Fighting Strategies From The Pros: Anti-spam gurus offer companies several weapons in the battle to stem the growing tide.

Ken Schneider, chief technology officer at Brightmail, says spam has long
plagued large ISPs, but this recent deluge means that it’s weighing heavily
on smaller ISPs and corporations.

“There’s been explosive growth over the last nine months,” says Schneider.
“The percentage of email that is spam has gone from 10% to 20%. If you get
five messages in corporate mail, one of those is going to be spam. If you’re
a large ISP, half your mail could easily be spam.”

Graphic Subject Lines, Graphic Images

And Schneider says there isn’t simply more spam these days. There’s a lot
more pornographic spam, with far more graphic subject lines and a higher
percentage that come with graphic images.

“Spam is a nuisance to a lot of people,” says Schneider. “But when it’s
pornographic, it causes a lot more pain to a company or an ISP because it’s
so much more bothersome for employees. It’s so much more in-your-face
lately. The subject lines are smuttier.”

The subject lines are often misleading, even using the recipient’s name to
fool people into opening the email to find pornographic messages and photos.

Arbon says at MAPS they don’t track the content of the spam but they are
noticing that an increasing number of “legitimate” companies are sending out
spam as part of their marketing strategies.

“I’ve seen a huge increase in very legitimate companies making some
interesting choices in who they’re using to send out mail,” says Arbon. “A
lot of places that claim to have totally opt-in lists don’t…I don’t think
they understand what it is they’re doing. I think a backlash is coming and a
lot of these companies are naively thinking this is OK because that’s what
their marketing people are telling them.”

This influx of spam is driving a lot of companies to take extreme measures
to keep their networks from buckling under the weight of it all, according
to Arbon. Some companies, she says, are using multiple blackhole lists,
they’re making their own lists and they’re even blocking out email from
entire countries or regions, such as Asia.

And Arbon notes that many spammers have moved their operations overseas so a
great percentage of spam is coming from Eastern European countries, South
America and Asian countries. “Spammers are using countries that are just a
little behind the technology curve,” says Arbon. “They may not be aware of
the issues involved, or they’re not set up to respond to the issues or
perhaps there are economic conditions that make the cash flow more appealing
than dealing with the consequences.”

But Arbon and Schneider both agree that blocking out entire countries or
regions is not a good tactic to take, because it cuts a company off from
receiving legitimate email that could be coming from or through that region.
And Arbon points out that a high percentage of spam is still coming from the
United States.

“There was always the concern that people would be missing legitimate email
but I see that fading rapidly,” says Arbon. “The economy isn’t great.
Companies don’t have the staff to deal with it. ISPs can’t afford to man
their abuse complaint desks like they should. It’s a vicious cycle.”

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