Email security firm MessageLabs reported this week that spam volumes recently reached a record 76 percent of all email traffic worldwide. The company based that figure on the more than 1 billion email messages it scanned for customers in May 2004. More than 700 million of those messages were spam, MessageLabs said. Furthermore, almost 10 percent of all email messages carry a malicious virus of some type.
"Email-borne viruses have plagued businesses for years, whereas spam has become the primary pain point only recently and now far surpasses the number of virus-infected emails," MessageLabs Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mark Sunner said. "In spite of a convergence of attack techniques, the growth patterns remain different. Spam levels follow a constant upward curve while the viral threats remain steady. The only exception is when volumes spike during major outbreaks such as MyDoom or when virus wars break out between the authors."
The news casts doubts on legislative-based antispam efforts and suggests that spam-filtering technology is having trouble keeping up with the influx. Indeed, after switching to an excellent server-based spam filter last year, I recently had to augment the filter with client-based tools because the amount of spam in my inbox has grown, once again, to the same levels that existed before I put the server-side spam filter in place. This week alone, I've deleted more than 400 spam messages, all of which made their way, undetected, past the server-side filter.