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  Evaluating Spam Costs and Filtering Techniques

Author: Avatar
Editor: Agi

Spam is the bane of Internet life these days and it represents a problem showing no signs of fact, it's only getting worse. Here are some amazing and frightening statistics concerning spam. In late 2002 a San Francisco research company, Ferris Research, estimated the total cost of spam to U.S. corporations reached 8.9 billion dollars ($8,900,000,000) in lost productivity. At first blush, this might strike you as ludicrous, however the numbers are fairly easy to validate.

A recent study done by the Federal Trade Commission, pulling together numbers from many different sources, revealed about 77% of all email recipients spend approximately 10 minutes per day dealing with spam in their inbox. If an individual earns $25 per hour, these 10 minutes equate to $4.16 each and every workday, totaling upwards of $83 monthly for one employee. Still seems high to you? Consider the volume of mail and time spent per message.

Messages per Second

Raw Messages/second
(green=total email, red=spam)

Most statistics peg the average time spent looking over a spam message and discarding it takes about 5 seconds. This requires receiving about 120 spam messages a day to reach the 10 minute estimate of the FTC's. Personally, my address (and corresponding aliases) receive a total of 300 spam messages per day.

Messages Per Second

Monthly Trend

None of these statistics include the cost of actual bandwidth resulting from the flow of spam over corporate connections, nor does it include hard disk space for storage. Furthermore, one would need to consider the confusion caused by clever fakes and false virus warnings. Yet, none of this even gets into the subject of ??phishing? for user information, ??web bugs? and other Trojans stored on the user's computers comprising corporate security. The average size of my personal spam seems to be about 6,000 bytes (6KB) with the national average supposedly running around 10K. So we are looking at a total of at least 1 megabyte per spam a day in each user's mailbox or around 30 megabytes in an average month's timespan. Now imagine a corporation with hundreds of mailboxes. Needless to say, the combined costs are staggering. We see not only a loss of productivity, but a real threat that the medium could be rendered useless by the tidal wave of junk.

According to the FTC, the volume of spam increased by 1,800% between 2001 and 2003 and continues to increase over the last 6 months (as noted by leading antispam companies with the percentage of spam representing over 60% of all email traffic). Actually, my in-house statistics show the percentage approaching 80% at times. It has been a year since Congress passed the ??Can-Spam Act? with at least 2 successful criminal prosecutions made under the act. However, the numbers demonstrate that legislation and regulation by the government is not going to stem the tide.

Another issue facing email users is ??dictionary attacks? which are launched daily against corporate mail servers, in an effort to ??guess? email addresses to deliver spam to. These attacks can cause serious performance issues or even mail server crashes.

Next Page
Table of Contents
Page 1: The Cost of Spam
Page 2: Simple Techniques
Page 3: Complex Techniques
Page 4: Integrated Techniques
Page 5: The Future
Page 6: Final Thoughts

      Posted by: , August 25, 2004, 6:00 pm  

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