Around the globe, spam grew in May to account for 76 percent of all email traveling the Internet, according to statistics just released by MessageLabs, Inc., an email management and security company based in New York. 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 this time last year when it made up 55 percent of all electronic messages, reports MessageLabs. At the beginning of this year, U.S. spam hit 80 percent, surprising some analysts who had predicted that spam wouldn't hit that level until mid-year.
''The depressing thing is that where the U.S. goes Internet-wise, the rest of the world will follow,'' says Natasha Staley, information security analyst at MessageLabs. ''In six months, we'll probably see that rate in Europe and most definitely in the U.K. And in 12 months, we'll see that in Asia and Australia.''
''I personally think the question is at what percentage will this plateau?'' she adds. ''If you follow the current trajectory, then by the end of this year more than 100 percent of email will be spam. There has to be some equilibrium.
''The numbers have to start to hover before they drop off,'' adds Staley. ''I will predict that around 96 to 97 percent the spam levels will have to peak. I can't imagine that people will stop sending legitimate 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. ''I know I've given up using my Hotmail account because every time I access it, I have one email from a friend and the rest is spam. It gets tiring and wears you down day after day.''
MessageLabs also reports that virus levels have remained relatively unchanged in the past several months.
About 9 percent of all email contained a virus last month. April showed the same percentage. This past January, the number was slightly higher at 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 and irritating.''