Spam grows from 8 to 90 per cent of global email in the last decade

40 trillion spam messages sent in 2009 alone

The last 10 years has seen the average amount of spam in the collective organisational inbox go from eight per cent of all emails in 2000 to 90 per cent on average in 2009, according to Symantec’s Dermot Harnett.

In a recent blog post looking back at the last 10 years of spam trends, Harnett wrote that some of the more notable spam factoids included more than 40 trillion spam messages being sent in 2009 alone.

Since 2006, spam levels have steadily climbed from 56 per cent of all email to an all-time high of 95 per cent at the end of May 2009, according to the blog.

Spammers over the last decade also proved to be more evasive and sophisticated as the complexity of spam techniques changed to include spam with attached images, PDFs, financial spam, malware-infected spam and the use of events and celebrities to lure in victims.

“For example, in 2009, Michael Jackson’s death captivated the imagination of some spammers and, at its height, Michael Jackson spam easily exceeded President Obama-related spam and accounted for approximately two per cent of all spam messages sent,” the blog reads.

An explosion in broadband connections in developing nations also resulted in greater volumes of spam coming from nations within the Asia Pacific and South America; 51 per cent of global spam in November 2009 came from these regions.

Looking at the current state of spam, the company said distribution paths have become more complicated. Spammers now send messages directly from infected machines, routing through compromised relays, and continue to abuse Web mail/SMTP Authentication.

New, more sophisticated botnets are also emerging targeting IT infrastructures in certain regions and legitimate websites are increasingly being hijacked to evade anti-spam filters.

“The economics behind spam dictate that 2010 will be another active year for spammers,” Harnett wrote. “The distribution of spam email is set to continue as long as distribution channels remain relatively cheap, botnets continue to be active and shift locations, and spammers develop new and innovative ways to attempt to bypass anti-spam filtering.”

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