High spam levels choke business broadband

Jul 18, 2006

Businesses experiencing long delays in receiving and sending e-mail messages may have an unexpected culprit to blame: spam.

The main reason spam, or junk e-mail, can take such a heavy toll on bandwidth is that the messages are "bursty" in nature, Rebecca Herson, senior marketing manager at anti-spam, anti-virus firm Commtouch, told UPI.

In other words, the messages "are coming in waves, not on a regular basis," Herson said. "You might get spam as 30 percent of your e-mail messages over the course of a few days, then none, and then another boom."

"On days when image-based spam achieves such a distribution peak, the global bandwidth and storage consumed by spam grows by more than 70 percent," Commtouch said in a company statement released last week.

And that 70 percent becomes bandwidth and storage that is not available to legitimate e-mail addresses and servers.

This becomes a problem for businesses, especially, because many medium to large enterprises save all e-mail messages on their servers, Herson said.

"Individuals can delete spam messages, but whether they stay on the server depends on the configuration -- whether the network backs up only user inboxes or every incoming message," she continued.

"There are companies that archive everything, to be on the safe side. Spam then takes up a huge amount of space."

Part of the reason for the recent jump in bandwidth and storage taken up by spam is the new trend of sending image-based spam, Herson said. These messages look like regular text but are actually much heavier images that are much harder for e-mail filters to catch.

"Image-based spam is three times the size of regular spam (that includes text and images), and much larger than spam that is purely textual," Herson said.

The image-based messages weigh in at around 18 kilobytes each, while the overall average for a standard spam message is around 5.5 kilobytes, Herson said.

Commtouch announced earlier this year that it had cracked imaged-based spamming, developing an algorithm to block it.

Despite the fact that at least 30 countries have enacted anti-spam legislation, the problem continues to grow and spammers continue to evade filters and law enforcement.

And unlike postal junk mailers, spammers encounter little to no cost while unloading cost in bandwidth, CPU processing time and storage space on the message receivers. Because of this, spamming could even be considered a form of theft, according to Wikipedia.

The United States Federal Trade Commission has a Web site dedicated to information on anti-spam laws and ways for consumers to protect themselves from receiving spam or falling for the scams the messages promote.

The scams can be anything from offers to make a killing on a penny-stock investment to advertisements for a wonder product. Some spam messages also include viruses, which turn an infected computer into a "zombie" -- a vehicle by which the spammers can send junk e-mail remotely from the infected computer without the user's knowledge.

In an increasingly electronic age, spam doesn't even have to be limited to e-mail: The unsolicited messages can also pop up on instant-messaging programs, Usenet news groups, Web search engines, blogs and cell-phone text messages. Though Commtouch's software and findings apply only to e-mail messages, a high volume of spam could suck enough bandwidth or storage space to slow any of these applications to a grinding halt.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Facebook: Internal glitch caused hour-long global outage (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hacked emails slice spam fast

Nov 26, 2014

Spam spreads much faster and to more people when it is being propagated by hacked, or otherwise compromised, email accounts rather than legitimate accounts, according to research published in the International Journal of ...

US man arrested in hacker stock fraud scheme

Mar 21, 2011

US authorities Monday arrested and charged a Texas man accused of masterminding a scheme using a Russian hacker and an email spam campaign to pump up the value of fledgling companies, the Justice Department ...

Recommended for you

WikiLeaks accuses Google of handing over emails to US

17 hours ago

Whistleblowing site WikiLeaks on Monday accused Google of handing over the emails and electronic data of its senior staff to the US authorities without providing notification until almost three years later.

Turkish court orders Facebook pages blocked

Jan 26, 2015

Turkey's state-run news agency says a court has ordered authorities to block access in the country to Facebook pages that "insult" the Prophet Muhammad, in the latest move to censor the Internet.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.