July 25, 2017

SPAM Hits Record Highs

Perhaps the following scenario will sound familiar. You sit down at your desk in the morning, click on MS Outlook to check the morning’s messages. You have 38 unread messages. You ask yourself, “Do I know 38 people?” The short answer is no.

You know 5 people and those are the only legitimate emails you received. The rest are from Nigerian banks, international lotteries, fishy petroleum companies, and a bunch of people who received news that you, ahem, are not the man you say you are but they can make your lies a reality. The delete button becomes your best friend.

The SPAM epidemic has gotten so out of hand that even the government is looking for ways to control it. CAN SPAM, as it is named, is under the watchful eye of the FTC. This legislation, primarily, uses the same guidelines as telemarketing fencing, utilizing a “do not e-mail” list. But with all the encoding, masking, and rerouting that comes with it, one has to wonder if legislation will be truly effective.

In 2002, SPAM accounted for an estimated 40% of all e-mail, costing U.S. corporations around $8.9 billion to combat it. In 2005, SPAM has doubled to 80%.

Of more serious concern is the increase in malware, or malicious e-mail, usually programmed in the form of “Trojans” that piggy back legitimate downloading. German managed security services provider Ubizen says that as many as 1 in 12 emails blocked by its systems last year was carrying some kind of virus. Just to put that in perspective, a little less than 10% of 24.8 BILLION daily e-mails are infected.

And most recently, mobile phones are on the brink of attack by malware. The most recent wave of infection has been found in games for smartphones that run on the Series 60 Symbian operating system used in models from Nokia. 52 trojans were found in one day, though none of them in “wild.” Though this is not a SPAM issue, it is an example of the expanded security threat on all things digitized and transmitted.

Fortunately, there are software companies that are pumping out products to control SPAM. The frontrunner seems to be Barracuda with their SPAM Firewall product. The firewall takes a layered approach to SPAM filtering with these 10 layers:

1. Denial of service and security protection
2. IP block list
3. Rate control
4. Virus check with archive decompression
5. Barracuda virus check
6. User-specified rules
7. Spam fingerprint check
8. Intention analysis
9. Bayesian analysis
10. Rule-based scoring

The Barracuda firewall has been met with rave reviews and appears to be a great first line defense against SPAM, malicious or otherwise.

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