Spam Has a Rather Innocuous Term Paper

Pages: 11 (2858 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

The number of spam attacks recorded by this company increased from about two million in 2001 to nearly six million in 2003. (Smith)

One of the central issues that pervade discussion on the urgency to combat spam is the threat that it poses to the future of email. While America Online states that unwanted e-mail was the top complaint from all its subscribers, Media Matrix predicts that the average American will receive at least 1, 480 spam messages in 2006. (Smith) The problem has its roots in a major advantage of e-mail - its price. The cost of sending 10, 000 e-mail messages is not much more than sending only ten. This means that the unscrupulous e-mail marketer can post thousands of e-mails very cheaply. There is also the growing perception, based on research, that targeted e-mail is more effective than its paper-based equivalents. The acquisition of e-mail addresses has been automated by software robots, which search the web for any and every e-mail address. All this adds up to an enticing environment for the spam mailer. Research from the Gartner research group recently reported that spam mail comprised almost one third to half of their client's incoming mail. Alarmingly, they predict that this figure will treble by 2005. (Smith) Reading and deleting spam mail also takes time; surveys by various companies estimate that their employees spend up to 10% of the working day dealing with spam mail. (ibid))

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One of the obvious ways of fighting spam-mail is to develop more sophisticated e-mail filters to weed out incoming junk. This has been an important priority for main players such as Microsoft's Outlook and also with Apples' mail applications. However, fighting spam is not easy for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons why filtering is not the ideal weapon against spam is that it can also result in a number of "false positives," or the deletion of legitimate e-mail that may be targeted incorrectly by the filtering methods.

Term Paper on Spam Has a Rather Innocuous Assignment

The difficulty in fighting spam is related to the ease at which spam marketing operates on the Internet. E-mail marketing is seen as a comparatively easy way to reach millions of potential customers. For around $100 one can purchase a CD-ROM on the Web that outlines the way to use Spam with ease. For about the same price one can purchase lists of e-mails of potential clients. Spammers have become more and more ingenuous in their methods and many use bandwidth and resources from insecure mail servers. Servers based in Asia are particularly targeted by spammers. This has even resulted in a diplomatic issue as some ISP's are blocking traffic from Internet addresses designated for China and various Asian countries.

Spammers mask or hide their origins by hacking into Internet cable lines and sending out their e-mail messages though the customer's IP or Internet Protocol address. The difficulty in tracing temporary IP addresses makes finding the spammers very tricky. Another technique used by spammers is to forge e-mail headers; this is a method known as spoofing, which creates the impression that the e-mail is being sent from a legitimate source - once again making prevention through filtering very difficult. Spammers have even used credentials such as the Bank of America and eBay to mask their missives. Spammers' methods are increasing in sophistication and now include 'polymorphic spam' that alters to avoid static filters.

Filtering e-mails and attachments not only presents the problem of producing false positives, but spammers also create their message in a graphic format and by so-doing avoid filtering detection. False positives also mean that companies can loose potential clients when their e-mail is deleted or mistakenly filtered as spam. An example of genuine messages being interpreted as spam is the recent case of Microsoft's CRM software. This top of the range customer relationship management software inserts a mixture of characters into the subject line of e-mail sent through the application system. Known as a generated unique identifier (GUID), this string of characters results in the e-mail sent to customers being interpreted as illegal by spam filters.

Obviously new software is required to fight this increasingly sophisticated attack on e-mail integrity. As might be expected, programmers and software companies are racing to produce the best anti-spam programs to cope with this growing problem. Two examples of these programs are SpamNet and Spam Arrest. SpamNet ( a program that uses the concept of consensus and community as well as database lists to provide spam filtering. Users can consensually decide to vote for or against certain senders.This program has been well received and is free to download. (a review, detailing the positive aspects of this program, can be viewed at (,10738,2872317,00.html).

On the other hand, Spam Arrest ( allows the individual user more control to differentiate between spam e-mails and those messages he or she wants to allow. Those e-mails that are neither approved nor rejected are subject to a test to find out whether they originate from a human source. These determinations are made on the Spam Arrest server to prevent any spam from reaching your computer. This means that the user has to log onto the server regularly and check through unverified mail. However, after a while this method provides a listing of good and unsolicited e-mail.

Other applications use a database of recognized spammers to filter incoming mail. One of these is Trend Micro of Tokyo ( method used is very similar to anti-virus software; incoming mail is compared to a spam sample database and any matches are blocked. Part of the reason for using this approach is to reduce the number of false positives that may be denied access.

Leading Internet Company Yahoo! recently launched a new version of its SpamGuard application, which is a patent-pending spam filtering technology. It forms part of the basic service available to all Yahoo! Mail ( users. This new version, they state, significantly reduces the amount of spam delivered to users' inboxes and has resulted in spam declining by as much as 40%. The tendency in new software is to provide a multiple spam fighting technology. One of the methods included in the product line-up is the "honey pot," which enables e-mail addresses to lure spammers. This method is also combined with database filtering techniques with lists of known spammers. Heuristic techniques are used by many programs, such as ActiveState's PureMessage (,Mirapoint's MessageDirector (,and the open source program SpamAssassin (,to analyze the text and headers as well as embedded images of e-mails for signs of spam. PureMeesage has also upgraded its software to deal with image spam, which is becoming increasingly prevalent. Another application, Mailfrontier ( a technique whereby mail sent by human operators can be distinguished from spam, which is electronically generated. There is also a tendency to combine the methods used in antivirus programs and filtering of content in programs such as SurfControl (


Feste, P. Stiff spam penalties urged. CNET NEWS. April 14, 2004. Accesed 14 Arpril, 2004.

IWANIW. Accessed 14 April, 2004.

Kotadia, M. Sobig blamed for fourfold rise in spam. ZDNET. December 09, 2003. Accessed 14 march, 2004.,39020375,39118369,00.htm

Olsen, J. Net's New Year resolution: Outlaw spam. January 3, 2003. Accessed 13 March, 2003. ( M

New world record: AOL blocks a billion spam e-mails in 24 hours. Nikke's Index. 03/06 2003.

Smith G. New Ways of Combating Spam. KLixxx Magazine. Version 4.8. August 2003.

Sophos outs 'dirty dozen' spam producing countries. Sophos. 26 February 2004. Accessed 14 march, 2004.

US net providers pursue spammers. BBC News. Wednesday, 10 March, 2004. Accessed 14 march, 2004.

Walcott, J.

Will spam be totally canned? CS Monitor. January 02, 2004 Accessed 15 March, 2004. [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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