AntiOnline Spotlight: Spam Declining?

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If you were told that spam is finally on the decline, your response would likely be something along the lines of "Liar, liar, pants on fire!" Schoolyard taunting aside, the mere idea of a reduction in unsolicited email (or dare we dream, elimination of...) is a serious case of wishful thinking. Or is it?

A cleaner inbox doesn't necessarily mean that the volume of spam flooding the Internet has abated.
Are filters and ISP SMTP controls starting to impact the flow of spam? Is the threat of facing a judge sending spammers into hiding? Maybe, but no one can say for sure.

Except, of course, network administrators.

You see, mail servers don't lie. They may prevent the bulk of spam from ever reaching a user's inbox but they are still bombarded with it, even if that results in banishing most of it. So while inboxes are undoubtedly cleaner for many, the amount of spam eating away at network resources may actually be unchanged, if not growing.

And if the recent bumper crop of antispam appliances and software is any indication, IT workers have a long battle ahead of them before they can consider spam licked (no pun intended).

This week's spotlight focuses on a startling report claiming that the flow of spam is slowing. Does this mesh with reality?

Note: The opinions expressed below are solely those of the individual posters on the AntiOnline forums.

This Week's Spotlight Forum:
Flow of spam subsiding

MsMittens spots an online report from The Toronto Star that boldly proclaims that spam appears to be slowing, at least in Canada. Here's a snippet:

In 2004, online Canadians received an average of 177 emails per week, 87 of which - or 49 per cent - were spam.

That's a dramatic improvement over 2003 when 134, or 68 per cent, of the weekly average of 197 emails were spam.

Prior to this, spam volumes had been doubling every year, the survey results showed.

...Mossop attributed the decline this year to the fact that consumers, businesses and Internet Service Providers are becoming more successful at implementing filters that weed out spam before it arrives in your inbox.

...to which she adds:
OK. Who are these people and why am I not part of them?!
Und3ertak3r has a feeling that there's more to this than meets the eye.
It doesn't mean that there is less spam, just that the filtering process is starting to have a slight effect. And when the craftsmen behind the spam find a better way of fooling the filters, the ratio will change.
Tiger Shark seems to agree...
Undies has pretty much nailed it. The survey seems to have been on users rather than admins.

I can say without a doubt that the things I have implemented in the last 6 months to a year to fight spam has had a considerable effect on both the amount of spam that reaches my spam filter and the amount of spam that reaches my users.

I have also noticed, as Undies alludes to, that spam getting to users, including myself, comes in "waves". As the spammers find a new tactic then the spam reaching users increases. The updates to the spam filter or other tactics I employ counter that and the volume that reaches the user becomes reduced. I don't even have to actively monitor it. I can tell something changed when users start telling me "I have begun to get this rubbish in my inbox"....

I tell them we are working on it. In a few days the update or a new tactic/filter we employ when we see a pattern cuts it right back down again.

In short, the volume in terms of percentage of total doesn't seem to have changed much - on my domains it would still be in the 60-65%+ region. It's the filters we apply that leave the users with only 10-15% of that spam reaching them. And they still complain.

How's your fight against spam going? Sound off here.