Three-quarters of all Canadian e-mail is spam

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Internet resources being drained in cat-and-mouse battle

Jim Jamieson

Spam has reached an all-time high of 77 per cent of e-mail traffic in Canada and the U.S., says an Internet security expert.

“It’s a remarkable thing,” Jordan Kalpin, Canadian regional director for IBM Internet Security Systems, said yesterday after IBM released a comprehensive security report.

“Organizations spend a lot of money on anti-spam technology and they think if they can keep it outside of their system then they don’t have to make their infrastructure any bigger. But it’s a cat-and-mouse game because the spammers have access to the same technology and they are constantly figuring out ways around it.”

Spam is loosely defined as mass-distributed, unsolicited e-mail, but it usually has a commercial angle — real or fraudulent.

Spammers set up networks illegally and lease them out to the highest bidder. Typical spam messages direct recipients to websites that sell drugs, pornography or other products. Some spam e-mails contain “phishing” scams, sending you to fake online sites where you can be defrauded or have your identity compromised.

According to Internet security company IronPort Systems, 63 billion junk-mail messages were sent daily in October, up from 31 billion a year earlier.

Besides being a huge drain on Internet resources, Kalpin said the increase in spam has fundamentally altered the medium of e-mail. “It’s very difficult now to tell whether an e-mail is legitimate or not,” he said.

“It’s eroded people’s ability to trust what they’re seeing in their in-box.”

Kalpin said the latest trend amongst spammers is image-based e-mail, where the message is contained in a photo attachment — allowing it to escape spam filters.

“The anti-spam software started to adjust, but then the spammers came out with ways of tiling many images together to get around the detection capabilities,” he said.

Kalpin advised consumers to have anti-spam software installed on their computer and to subscribe to an e-mail service that has these technologies built into it.

© The Vancouver Province 2007


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