April: The Cruelest Month For Spam

Tina Reilly
UNITED KINGDOM -- The United States continues to lead the world as the most prolific sender and receiver of unsolicited email, commonly known as spam, said email security firm MessageLabs on Monday.

In the month of April alone, spam statistics indicate that 840 million spam emails were received by users and that among those millions, 97 percent were spam. The biggest target of unsolicited email is the U.S., says MessageLabs, with the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and Hong Kong following closely.

Pushing the statistical envelope even further, MessageLabs has determined through its research that 83 percent of all email received in the U.S. is spam, which accounts for four in five emails. Whereas in the UK, only 53 percent of email is considered spam.

MessageLabs attributes this lead to a higher concentration of broadband users in the U.S., compared to other countries. But that as high-speed usage becomes increasingly popular throughout the world, the problem with spam will only escalate.

Brian Czarny, vice president of marketing at Message Labs, says that a year ago, that number in the U.S. was barely at 50 percent, and has shown signs of surprising growth over the past six months despite the Can-Spam Act of 2004, which put the task of shutting down spammers in the hands of the federal government.

But so far, the feds have only managed to make a limited number of arrests based on the terms of the new law, and many critics say that the U.S. government severly overestimated how easy it would be to win the spam war and to pursue the naturally elusive spamming community.

According to MessageLabs, the UK will soon be a close second to the U.S. in terms of its email glut.

In one case, a small UK-based company claims to have received 720,000 emails in the month of April alone, and of that number, 99.84 were spam, the company claims.

"We expected the battle to be over very quickly," said Dave Rand, co-founder of San Jose, Calif.-based Mail Abuse Prevention System. "We were just wrong in so many different ways. The reality is it has been a continual escalation."

However, despite the general public's complaints over spam cluttering their email browsers, the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a research firm based in Washington, D.C., has determined that more than 6 million people, or 5 percent of email users, followed through on spam marketing and purchased products or services.

According to Pew's recent survey, though, 77 percent of respondents still felt that spam was an intrusion, and 29 percent said it had profoundly affected the way they perceive the Internet.