20/01/2006

SPAM'S LAST GASP

It seems like a long time since I sat on the unmade bed of a teenage spammer in his dark bedroom in a middle class Auckland home in Mt. Eden, watching as he spammed hundreds of thousands of email addresses with banal adverts for something or other.

The guy was probably 18 at the time and he made a mint, tax free, working for his Russian and American masters. He had a Paypal account set up to receive his payments and switched internet providers regularly as they cottoned onto his spam scam. That was just a few years ago, when the spamming industry was in full swing. Companies were taking drastic action to save their mail servers from collapsing, worker productivity was going down the drain as people waded through inboxes full of junk mail and software companies sought a silver bullet solution to spam.

Now, as I suggest in this Herald column, spam has a terminal disease. It’s in decline, the world now familiar to its traits, the citizens of the internet savvy in their understanding of how to deal with it. The spam is still being sent but we’re actually confronted with only a fraction of it these days.

That spells the beginning of the end for the spammers. The business model is in the toilet. Most have already moved on to something entirely more lucrative, phishing, a particularly nasty web scam that involves shadowy figures tricking you into giving them your bank account information. They then clean you out leaving you staring incredulously at the eftpos terminal when the transaction comes up DECLINED.

Yep, a few incremental improvements technology wise and a bit of education is slowly buy surely relieving the pain of spam. I give it two more years before it’s all just a bad memory.

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