Green Eggs And Spam
To clarify, I am not talking about rotten eggs or that horrible stuff the poor depression dwellers had to eat, I am talking about computer e-mail spam.
What is this spam I speak of?
Spam is best defined as unsolicited and unwanted commercial electronic messages or e-mails that are sent to large numbers of people.
Ask any computer user and the most annoying thing about having and using e-mail is the annoying amount of spam you get. It is predicted that spam could eventually kill the usability of e-mail unless effective barriers and law changes are introduced. In 2003 it was reported that 40% of all e-mail traffic in the US was spam up from just 8% in 2001. Over the past 6 months this figure has doubled. Hotmail a popular e-mail service, says that 80% of e-mail coming to their servers is spam.
You might say that I don't get as much spam as I used to. Well this is thanks to internet providers and businesses filtering this out before you see it. One problem with spam filters is that occasionally users encounter false positives in which important and legitimate e-mail gets blocked. Due to these necessary anti-spam measures, the costs involved are huge. Not only does all this excessive internet traffic clog up the internet freeway, but all these e-mails are downloaded to servers before the anti-spam software deletes it. Businesses worldwide report that 20% of all e-mail received is spam. It is estimated that the true cost of spam for businesses in the United States alone is $8-9 billion US dollars per year.
Why is there so much spam?
The simple answer is that there is a market for spam. If people didn't buy from spam e-mail there wouldnt be any spam. All the spammer needs is for one person, out of a few hundred thousand e-mails, to buy something and it makes the whole process worth while. Sending the spam requires little effort on the spammers part as the computer automates the process meaning that it is very easy to send out over a million e-mails an hour.
What is the world and in particular New Zealand doing about all this spam?
On the 23rd of February '05 the Information Technology minister, Paul Swann, released a proposed law will that make it illegal to send spam that originates from NZ. Only problem is that only 1% of spam originates from Australia and NZ, and to actually catch and prosecute a spammer is very difficult due to spammers being good at hiding there identity.
In April '05, a 30 year old spammer in the United States became the first person to be prosecuted for spamming. He was sentenced to a nine year prison term. He is described as a modern day snake oil salesman being the eighth most prolific spammer in the world, sending up to 10 million e-mails a day from his house. His income was $750,000 US per month, with one in every 30,000 e-mails sent generating money. He sent out so much e-mail that he received, on average, 15,000 credit card orders a month, each order worth an average of $US40. His total worth is $24 million US dollars, he advertised pornography, fake products and services. During the court case the assistant attorney general said and I quote "When your marketing to the world, there are enough idiots out there who will be suckered in."
Remember that spam is only a problem due to people purchasing from spam e-mail, if there was no demand there would be no spam, security firm Mirapoint, reports that 1 in 10 people buy something from spam e-mail.
So how do I protect myself from spam?
There are a three main ways to stop being spammed.
The first and the best form of defence is not to give out your personal e-mail address. Don't publicise your address in chat rooms or fill in forms on a website. For this purpose, you are best to use a public e-mail address such as a hotmail account, as some web site owners are more than happy to sell your e-mail address to a spammer.
Secondly use an internet provider that controls and monitors spam.
Thirdly install anti-spam software on your PC.
Therefore in this day and age there really is no need to eat green eggs and spam!
About the Author: Richard Warlow is a director of http://www.brontobyte.co.nz, a Computer Retailer in Christchurch, New Zealand, supplying to local small businesses and home users of computer equipment and servicing. I am also a toastmaster, this article was based on a speech given.