Help File: Less spam

By Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 12, 2011; 6:07 PM

Help file

I seem to be getting less spam in my e-mail these days. Has that problem somehow gotten better?

A: Amazingly enough, things do appear to have improved on the spam front.

In October, computer-security reporter Brian Krebs (a former Post colleague) noted that the closure of a major Russian spam operation had cut down on the volume of junk e-mail. One security research company, M86 Security Labs, estimated a roughly 40 percent drop.

That Orange, Calif.-based shop's statistics since then show that junk e-mail has yet to rebound, despite slight fluctuations. Symantec's estimates record an even steeper drop, going from about 140 billion spam messages a year ago to less than 60 billion.

But things could go the other way easily enough. Spam traffic receded notably twice in 2008 when corrupt hosting sites were shut down, then came back up later on.

And even in the current environment, spam still makes up a dismayingly large fraction of all e-mail: 82.5 percent according to M86, just less than 80 percent in Symantec's data.

There is one other factor to consider: Spammers might be taking their business to other, more profitable channels. Twitter has found that its growing popularity has been "rewarded" with misuse of the microblogging site for spam. Facebook is now a popular spam target, too.

Ever notice how often friends on that site post some video or link - with text written without their usual standards of grammar and spelling? You can do the anti-spam fight a favor by not clicking on those shared items and by asking those friends if they haven't fallen prey to some viral spam scam.

Rob Pegoraro

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