Ignoring spammers may encourage them: Brightmail

You can’t win with spammers. It’s stupid to reply to them, you can’t “unsubscribe” without attracting more spam and now it appears ignoring or filtering them is counter-productive too.

Spam filter company Brightmail, reporting that their statistics show spam volumes now exceed those of genuine email, suggests one reason may be “a reduction in the response rates of email users around the globe”, encouraging the spammers to greater efforts to keep their number of responses up.

Brightmail reports that in December 2003 it filtered 80 billion email messages and identified 58% of these as spam, up from 37% in July 2002. This growth can also be attributed to a greater number of spammers and availability of easy-to-use spamming tools, the company says.

“In 2003 there was a significant increase in attempts and techniques to hide information –- for example sender, origin and links from within the message -- from the recipient, especially within HTML-based email.

“Brightmail saw spammers change their techniques to evade spam filters -- injecting legitimate [non-spammy] words to get around Bayesian technology or increasing the amount of randomisation in every part of the message. Recent trends in randomisation represent some of the most sophisticated techniques yet, from variation in the HTML code to random text inserted in the same colour as the background colour (for example, white text on white background),” Brightmail reports.

The Pacific region appears to attract much the same kind of spam as the rest of the world, with a marginally lower proportion of financial messages and more advertising of general goods and services. There is one cheerful note: according to Brightmail, Pacific users got a statistically insignificant proportion of political emails, which constituted 2% of the worldwide spam load. Spam classified as “adult” is running at 18% both here and overseas.

Lastly, Brightmail reports that 78% of spam is still “in English”.

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