Unsolicited, unwanted, impersonal email. A U.K.-based Spamhaus Project tracks the Internet’s spammers, gangs, and services, as well as provides spam protection for Internet networks. The Spamhaus Project team also partners with law enforcement agents to identify and catch spammers worldwide. This group says that email can be regarded as “spam” if it has all three of the following attributes: (1) the receiver’s personal identity is irrelevant because the email message sent is actually applicable to multitudes of other receivers; (2) the receiver has not given explicit consent for the email to be sent; (3) the sending and receiving of the email message appears to the receiver to give a “disproportionate benefit” to the sender.
Spam wastes the time and the resources of the receivers. Spam also frequently includes material that many receivers find offensive, such as the marketing of sexual enhancement devices or child pornography.
In the United States, spam reportedly costs nearly $21.6 billion annually in lost productivity, according to the 2004 National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS). The survey, completed annually, tracks U.S. consumers’ online opinions and behaviors. The loss estimate of more than $21 billion was based on U.S. users’ reports that they spend an average of three minutes per day deleting spam at work. With about 170 million U.S. adults online at work, that results in 22.9 million lost hours a week, or $21.6 billion in lost productivity annually when the average wage is factored into the calculation.
Early in 2005, Lycos Europe began offering computer users a weapon against spam-emitting servers. The weapon is actually a screensaver program that automatically visits the Website advertised in the spam. The idea behind this scheme is to have enough of these screensavers running to slow down the Website or make it inaccessible. Lycos Europe encouraged its 22 million users to download the screensaver for their own good, but, they affirmed, anyone who has a computer is welcome to download it.
During the first week of February 2005, however, security experts warned that spam levels could increase drastically in future years because spammers have found a new way to deliver spam. Spamhaus said that a new piece of malware, a Trojan, has been created that gains control of a PC and then uses it to send spam through the mail server of that PC’s Internet Service Provider (ISP). Because the spam appears to come from the ISP, it is next to impossible for an anti-spam blacklist to stop it.
Demon Spam-Filtering Service. Frequently Asked Questions. [Online, 2004.] Demon Spam-Filtering Service Website. http://www.demon.nl/eng/products/ services/spamfilterfaq1.html; Ilett, D. Spammers tricking ISPs Into Sending Junk Mail. [Online, February 2, 2005.] CNET Networks, Inc. Website. http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/ 0,39020369,39186364,00.htm; In Brief. Program Hits Spammers. The Globe and Mail, December 2, 2004, p. B11; In Brief. Spam Wastes $22.9 Million Hours a Week, Survey Finds. The Globe and Mail, February 9, 2005, p. C8.