Nine out of 10 U.S. Emails Now Spam

Spam skyrocketed worldwide last month, and peaked in the United Stateswhere nine out of 10 emails now are spam.

Around the globe, spam grew in May to account for 76 percent of allemail traveling the Internet, according to statistics just released byMessageLabs, Inc., an email management and security company based in NewYork. That number is up from 60 percent at the beginning of the year.

Here in the U.S., unsolicited bulk email has nearly doubled from thistime last year when it made up 55 percent of all electronic messages,reports MessageLabs. At the beginning of this year, U.S. spam hit 80percent, surprising some analysts who had predicted that spam wouldn'thit that level until mid-year.

''The depressing thing is that where the U.S. goes Internet-wise, therest of the world will follow,'' says Natasha Staley, informationsecurity analyst at MessageLabs. ''In six months, we'll probably seethat rate in Europe and most definitely in the U.K. And in 12 months,we'll see that in Asia and Australia.''

Staley says the real question, as spam gets precariously close to makingup 100 percent of all email, is where will it stop?

''I personally think the question is at what percentage will thisplateau?'' she adds. ''If you follow the current trajectory, then by theend of this year more than 100 percent of email will be spam. There hasto be some equilibrium.

''The numbers have to start to hover before they drop off,'' addsStaley. ''I will predict that around 96 to 97 percent the spam levelswill have to peak. I can't imagine that people will stop sendinglegitimate emails.''

But Staley contends that many home users are starting to do just that.

''For the home user community, this is impacting them,'' she says. ''Iknow I've given up using my Hotmail account because every time I accessit, I have one email from a friend and the rest is spam. It gets tiringand wears you down day after day.''

MessageLabs also reports that virus levels have remained relativelyunchanged in the past several months.

About 9 percent of all email contained a virus last month. April showedthe same percentage. This past January, the number was slightly higherat 10 percent.

''We haven't had a really damaging virus since MyDoom back in January,''Staley says. ''We had Netsky and Bagle but they've just been niggly andirritating.''