When the Web was in its infancy, spam was a minor annoyance, and not much more. However, as with all other aspects of the Web, spam has evolved into something far more dangerous that is costing business enormously, in terms of bandwidth, productivity and downtime.
"To get a handle on the size of the spam problem, we need to look at the tidal wave of unsolicited e-mails that is drowning the enterprise," says John Mc Loughlin, MD of J2 Software. "Reports estimate that as much as 80% of the billions of e-mails sent on a daily basis are spam. These illegitimate mails clog up and waste expensive bandwidth, put strain on servers, and waste time and money delivering these e-mails to the intended mailboxes, and even more in sifting through them."
He says J2 did an investigation across its e-mail user base to see if the research was correct in an African context. "When we looked at J2 Software's customers using Mimecast, we saw that e-mail rejections of spam, dangerous attachments and other illegitimate e-mails blocked in the cloud totalled an average of 1 905 459 a week, adding up to 7.6 million e-mails being rejected monthly just on the J2 Software customer base. These e-mails were rejected and never filtered down to our clients, saving them enormously in terms of both bandwidth, and time spent sorting the wheat from the chaff."
Mc Loughlin cites research done by the Radicati Group as showing the average size of an e-mail without an attachment to be 26KB. "This translates into savings in excess of 47GB for our client base."
He says over and above losses of bandwidth and productivity, spam can be dangerous in other ways. "Spam e-mails will also often try to trick the recipient into following links to malicious Web sites or to download dangerous applications which can then be used to target the business or individual by stealing sensitive information. By blocking and therefore preventing these mails form reaching our clients, we have helped ensure that there is no chance of human error in infecting the corporate network."
He adds that e-mail is also still the most common vector for spreading malware, and that in addition to distributing dangerous applications, this sort of spam could crash your system, and in turn, the systems of people you e-mail, or log your keystrokes to steal your financial login details."
Phishing is another tactic that spammers use. "The cyber criminal will send out an e-mail that is so close in appearance to the genuine article that it would fool all but the closest scrutiny. Phishing mails attempt to trick the recipient into clicking on a link, and filling in their private financial information. Not only are bank accounts cleaned out in this way, but the cost of identity theft resulting from phishing can also run into the millions."
The risks associated with spam and other illegitimate mail is growing daily – spammers are continually adapting to try and bypass new methods of detection. This can cost not only money, but customers and reputation. "Spam isn't going anywhere, but with a leading solution like Mimecast, backed by the certified support and recommendations of J2 Software's experienced staff, we will continue to fight this battle on our clients' behalf. We aim to provide our clients with ongoing spam-free in-boxes, so they can save vast amounts of time, bandwidth and frustration."