“18” year old virgins have recently found online resellers of non-prescription viagra for Magic Jack users that want cheap ski vacations that need health insurance, iPads and Dyson vacuum cleaners at rock bottom, knock off prices! And all of these thousands of emails have been sent to my account online so that I can help a gentleman from Nigeria move $55 million in money from an African bank account into the U.S. and I can charge a humble $5 million fee to help. I just need to send my social security number, credit card numbers, street address, and a sample of my signature to a person I’ve never met by email, deposit the bogus cashier’s check in my trust account, and then immediately write a check off the account the next day, well before the bogus check is returned by the collecting bank.
I feel as though I have ended up in the 21st century Monty Python skit about the restaurant that only seems to have “spam” on the menu. I hear this problem continues, with more than 70% of all email amounting to spam, according to a 2011 article from Symantec (though there was a time that more than 90% of email was spam, so there has been some improvement since those dark days in 2009). Progress has been made with some service providers that have waged a counter war against spam. Gmail, for example, group-sources and marks messages as spam based on all messages identified by users as spam across the gmail platform. This is a surprisingly effective strategy. My experience has been that there are few false positives.
Previously, email systems were implemented that would check if a message was sent from a known, blacklisted IP address based on a series of independently maintained blacklist databases on the internet. There have also been other improvements in the background, including the use of special DNS entries, and email gateways that pre-filter messages before reaching the mail server (Symantec had a product it had acquired from Brightmail; Google Apps includes a single-domain license for Postini, which is also generally effective at cutting down spam). Spam messages often include phishing links, virus-laden email attachments, and other nefarious attacks on users. Reducing spam makes sense for service providers that are paying, ultimately, for the bandwidth and storage space to process and deliver this junk to users. We clearly have a way to go to reduce this problem for users. Until then, if you need male enhancement medicine, are missing out on a $1,000 transfer to your bank account, want to help a political refugee move his family fortune to the U.S., need a usurious student loan, or want to work from home – I’m your guy!