Monday, August 06, 2007

Spam Spam Spam Spam . . .

(Or so the song goes.)

Last week's issue of The New Yorker features an article called "Damn Spam" - an unnerving piece that traces the recent history of this email plague.

For example:

* "In 2001, spam accounted for about five per cent of the traffic on the Internet; by 2004, that figure had risen to more than seventy per cent."
* "The onslaught apparently began on April 12, 1994, when two lawyers . . . bombarded the Internet with e-mail offering their services to immigrants . . . The two later claimed that they made a hundred thousand dollars from the e-mail campaign - a compelling demonstration of the peculiar economics of the Internet."
* "The more spam that is blocked, the greater the volume spammers will need to send in order to make money. If you used to have to send fifty thousand pieces of spam to get a response, now you have to send a million. Spammers just shrug it off and send a million."
* "Spammers today almost never use their own computers or Internet connections. It is rarely necessary, since they can seize control remotely from computers all around the world."

We compile a lot of business lists here for our clients, presumably so they can conduct mailings. Direct mail costs money, and doesn't guarantee much success. Mass emailings, though, cost but a fraction, and can be accomplished virtually anonymously.

Oh, boy. The article also details the challenges faced by the people who design anti-spam software, and the constant cat-and-mouse games they play against an invisible opponent.

My in-box isn't nearly as loaded with spam as it once was, and I'm grateful to those people who fight the fight. As one of them says at the end, "It's kind of like war. One side eventually gets tired. And we just can't let it be us."

No comments: