Spam Reaching Record Volumes, Researchers Say

Study says 95% of all email is now spam

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, spam is growing again.

According to two separate reports issued this week, that hateful, useless email is increasing again, both in volume and as a percentage of the messaging payload, researchers say.

Ninety to 95 percent of all email sent in 2007 was spam, according to Barracuda Networks, which conducted an analysis of more than 1 billion daily email messages sent to its more than 50,000 customers worldwide. This figure has jumped from an estimated 85 percent to 90 percent of email in 2006 -- and leaped from figures collected in 2001, when spam accounted for only 5 percent of email messages.

Spam techniques also have become more sophisticated over the past several years, Barracuda said. The majority of spam emails in 2007 utilized identity obfuscation techniques, in which spammers send email from diverse sources throughout the Internet, thus hiding their own identity from traditional reputation checks that profile sender network addresses.

Many spammers also are hiding their identities by registering new domains or by redirecting spam Web domains through reputable blogs, free Website providers, or URL redirection services, Barracuda said.

Symantec's December spam report, which was released earlier this week, also reported record percentages of junk email, though its figures weren't quite as scary. The security company said that 72 percent of the email traffic it tracked in November was spam, up from 64 percent in May. The percentage is the highest that Symantec has ever recorded.

Image spam has been at the forefront of spam's resurgence in 2007, but the field has seen a number of "firsts" throughout the year, Symantec says. For example, the first partnerships between spammers and bot herders occurred during 2007, paving the way for a significant escalation in spam traffic.

With the surge, spam is also getting more attention among business managers, according to Barracuda. In a separate study of 261 business professionals, the anti-spam firm found that 57 percent of respondents felt that spam is the worst culprit among junk mail media, followed by postal junk mail (31 percent) and telemarketing (15 percent).

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  • Barracuda Networks Inc.
  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)