The Joy Of Spam

Anyone who uses email has at some point been faced with what this writer lovingly calls the Spam Dilemma.  The mailbox shows ten messages, but once opened, reveals only one actual email – if the mailbox owner is lucky.  The remaining nine email messages are an advertisement, opportunity, or incentive.

Rather than running out of steam and going away, the Spam Dilemma continues to plague email users worldwide.  The reason the deluge of junk mail continues is as upsetting as it is simple:  Spam works.

Spam has become a booming industry, one which rakes in millions, if not billions of dollars.  And the ones profiting are not simply the networks and website programmers that send the spam to the hapless mailbox.  The companies making spam-blocking software are making a killing, as well.

It’s difficult to nail down precise figures on how well spammers do for themselves.  In an attempt to get to the bottom of the question, security firm Sophos undertook an extensive study.  One of the most telling (and chilling) cases is that of Viagra, which ranks among the top products hawked online using spam email tactics.  The spam-makers who devote their energy to Viagra sales can earn as much as four thousand dollars daily, solely from the commissions paid to them by online pharmacies.

Sophos’s report describes a Russian spammer network called the “partnerka.”  The network works primarily with Canadian pharmacies, and is able to massively boost their sales through spam tactics.  It seems to be surprisingly easy, since spammers are hauling in as high as forty percent commissions on a product that generally costs about two hundred.  If a spammer sends a million spam ads for Viagra a day – and the average spammer sends many more than that – the odds that fifty emails will result in a sale is very high.  The commissions from that kind of productivity can add up fast.

Though the anti-spam software industry is racing to keep up with the advancing danger of spam overload, the spammers are growing every more ingenious in their tactics.  The latest strategy is the migration of spam from the email inbox to the Internet browser, where there is less sticky law to avoid and less capable spam protection systems.  Web-Spam is beginning to appear as a safer spam tactic, after a few high-profile spam-moguls were jailed recently for their deviant email behavior.

Said another way, spam isn’t going anywhere soon.  Best keep one finger on the ‘delete’ button and another on the ‘close window’ icon, because the storm has only begun.

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