The never-ending spam deluge

spamexampleIf you’ve noticed a sudden upsurge in spam email in the UK recently, offering sex, stock tips, genuine fake Rolexes and the usual pharmacopia, it could be the result of criminal gangs using hijacked computers, says a Reuters report.

I’ve been getting loads of such spams recently, all of which have managed to get through the spam filters on my email server. When they arrives at my PC, most get trapped by the excellent Cloudmark Desktop for Outlook, a pay-for service I’ve been using for over four years.

The ones that Cloudmark doesn’t see as spam are quite clever. They’re not obvious at all and on first glance apear to be normal-type messages. A closer look, though, and every single one is pure gobbledegook, as the small screenshot suggests.

Whatever the spam is, it’s undoubtedly becoming a serious problem:

[... email security company Postini] has detected 7 billion spam e-mails worldwide in November compared to 2.5 billion in June. Spam in Britain has risen by 50 percent in the last two months alone, according to Internet security company SurfControl. The United States, China and Poland are the top sources of spam, data from security firm Marshal suggests. About 200 illegal gangs are behind 80 percent of unwanted emails, according to Spamhaus, a body that tracks the problem.

My experience reflects these trends – on any given day, I estimate that at least 70 percent of all email I receive is what Cloudmark sees as spam, plus another 10 percent or so that I regard as spam.

This deluge goes beyond just being an irritant and a consequence of being online. Now, it takes longer and longer to sift through the stuff to see if there’s something trapped that shouldn’t be. Or, reviewing what’s in your inbox for something there that should have been trapped.

Who has the time? I now tend to simply purge the spam folder in Outlook without even reviewing what’s in it. When you see the folder containing 300+ items, you just go ‘select all – delete.’ (Likewise with spam comments and trackbacks on the blog that Akismet intercepts – whatever Akismet says is spam, I’m now accepting without reviewing.)

Will this problem ever be solved? It doesn’t look like it, certainly not any time soon:

[...] It will only end when people stop buying diet pills, herbal highs and sexual performance enhancers, said Dave Rand, of Internet security firm Trend Micro. “The products they are selling by spam are exactly the same products that they sold in the Middle Ages,” he said. “This really is a human problem, not a computer problem.”

Reuters | Email gangs bombard Britain in “Spam Wars”