Spam Wins

I used to blame people buying things foolishly for spam. People get these poorly worded, almost oddly poetic, sales pitches and go ambling off to buy whatever was being sold.

I got a bit of a wake-up call from a BBC story on how many sales are being made for each of those messages that are going out. Spammers make money even when as few as 1 in 12.5 million people respond to an e-mail. With such low costs for the spammers, I feel like there isn’t much hope to put an end to this epidemic on the internet.

The LA Times also has an interesting story on one possible successful approach to at least taking a small chunk out of spam, which they say is over 90% of e-mail traffic. This is about 180 billion spam messages a day. Before I get to the solutions though, the enormity of the problems is striking if you look at the ramifications of these figures. Assuming the figures the BBC states are correct, there are almost 15,000 profitable spam e-mails sent out a day. If we were to assume that each of these successful e-mails earned about $50 each, (an admittedly wild guess on my part, but a reasonable figure given some of the Nigerian’s scams end up earning thousands) we would be talking about over $700,000 a day being made on the internet in this method. Clearly, spam will not be going away without a fight.

The LA Times article says that spam traffic is down about two-thirds after researchers started going after mainstream Internet Service Providers who it seems were letting some pretty shady activities happen in this country. While the article acknowledges that this is a temporary victory at best, I have mixed feelings about its success. I’m glad to see action taking, but the most likely result of a crackdown like this is that the spammers will move to different countries to places where techniques like this will not work. It seems like this could end up in a vicious cycle of escalation without a promising end in site.

In short, as spammers survive, spammers win.

Sorry there aren’t a lot of tips in this entry for you, but I hope you’ll be glad to have a little more knowledge of the economics of spam.

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