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Undesired Email Flavours: SPAM


This article is a part of the series on undesired email (spam, phishing, viruses, etc.). The material covers the Poisons and the Remedies.

By Stas Bekman.

Published: May 15th 2006

Undesired Email Flavours: SPAM

SPAM is not an abbreviation for "Squirrels, Possums And Mice", but it's rather a "Self Promotional Advertising Message". Why spammers send spam? - because it pays off, and apparently a big way. If spammers sends 10,000 messages suggesting to buy viagra or enlarge your penis and your breasts (they usually come in pairs since spammers can't tell whether an email address they send to belong to a male or a female) and one person follows the lead, they made a small profit. Since they didn't spend a cent to send these 10,000 messages, it was a pure profit. Now there are millions of users out there, so why not send to 10,000,000 and make a 100 times bigger profit (assuming that there is still just one sucker in a group of every 10,000 netizens). Next, why not send more than one spam to the same users, making even more profit. Finally, there are many spammers out there, all wanting to make a big profit. The result: as of today an estimated 80+% of all email traffic is undesired email (the majority being SPAM).

An obvious way to make SPAMing unattractive is to make sending many message financially unsound - i.e. make the sending cost of each email a fraction of a cent, and while most users will be unaffected, spammers will suddenly have to shell out a lot of money - suddenly it doesn't pay off anymore. Think of snail mail - you do occasionally receive a undesired email, but you don't get 1000 of those a day, since nobody could afford sending those. However for various reasons (e.g., micro-payments infrastructure doesn't exist and it's more expensive to make a transaction than to charge a fraction of a cent), at the moment this solution is not applicable, and therefore we continue seeing more and more SPAM since many people like to make money in unacceptable (to most) ways.

Read about the Remedies to learn how to deal with the problem.

Related Links

And here are some pointers for additional information on the subject:


Spam Techniques Project (http://st.do.homeunix.org/)
A thesis on spam techniques

Ask Ars (http://arstechnica.com/ask-ars/2003/anti-spam/index.html)
The best anti-spam solutions for Windows

Why Am I Getting All This Spam? (http://www.cdt.org/speech/spam/030319spamreport.shtml)
Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Research Six Month Report

Wikipedia on SPAM

Fight Spam on the Internet! (http://spam.abuse.net/)
This site provides a plethora of advice for people who want to understand and fight SPAM.

The Anti-Spam Home Page (http://www.arachnoid.com/lutusp/antispam.html)
The spam problem is not going away, it's getting worse! Learn how to stop junk e-mail.

Wikipedia on Spamming

The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (http://www.cauce.org/)
Is an ad hoc, all volunteer organization, created by Netizens to advocate for a legislative solution to the problem of Unsolicited Commercial Email.

SPAM - The Issues, Impact and Reducing SPAM: Part 1 (http://www.windowsecurity.com/whitepaper/anti_spam/Impact-Reducing-SPAM-Part2.html), Part 2 (http://www.windowsecurity.com/whitepapers/Impact-Reducing-SPAM-Part1.html)
2 articles to help improve the understanding of the impact and problems created by SPAM. This section focuses primarily on things that can be done to help reduce the impact of SPAM for consumers, ISP's, and corporations. There is no 100% with SPAM reduction, but things can be done to improve the current status and condition of Internet email reliability. (Mar 2006)

Spam Filter Software Reviews (http://spam-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/)
provides detailed reviews of spam filters for end users.



Related Books

And here you can find books that will provide an indepth coverage of SPAM and related material:

Anti-Spam consumer level:

Anti-Spam technical level:

Continue reading about other email-related Poisons or jump into the Remedies section.

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