Huge proportion of inbox email volume to SMEs is spam, survey shows

4 Sep 2008

Research released today by Irish consulting and technical services company IT Force shows that some 92pc of emails received by the firm and its clients in the month of August was spam.

The research analysed over 1,187,452 emails and established that 1,090,286 were spam. The top five viruses found in the survey were Trojan.Delf-5385, Email.Trojan-9, Trojan.Zbot-1962, Email.PornTeaser and Trojan.Zbot-1966.

“The amount of spam email with viruses attached is very small, at about 1pc of the total. In the past few months, IT companies have become very good at whittling out viruses and the volume has dropped significantly,” said IT Force’s sales director for managed services, Joe Molloy (pictured).

IT Force’s ‘Mail Protect’ solution introduced 18 months ago eliminates spam and protects companies from viruses, he added. “Prior to ‘Mail Protect’, many of our recruitment and public relations (PR) clients were receiving hundreds of spam emails a day. A recruitment or PR consultant can easily waste up to an hour a day simply deleting or being distracted by spam emails.”

Some 20 of IT Force’s clients took part in the survey, ranging in size from those with 10 PCs, up to 150 PCs. Spam is of particular concern to the small and medium-sized market.

One of the biggest dangers for small businesses is the threat of sudden spam surges, according to the Small Firms Association (SFA).

“Spammers increasingly innovate and employ new methods to elude businesses’ traditional anti-spam solutions. ‘Spam spikes’, as these attacks are known, occur when individual domains are aggressively targeted. These attacks can be very threatening to small businesses in particular, as their email servers become overloaded, preventing receipt of communications and orders from customers,” said Avine McNally, SFA assistant director.

As cybercrime becomes more sophisticated, basic measures aren’t enough on their own – it is crucial for businesses to take a multi-layered security approach, she added.

“While research shows that over 90pc of email on the internet is spam of one type or another, many larger organisations are benefiting from recent developments in firewall technology,” said James McLoughlin, senior security specialist at Lan Communications. 

Previous attempts to combat spam have relied on filtering of emails on the destination email server or email client, but newer techniques are coming on stream. 

“Unfortunately, the traditional technique is quite resource intensive – so it can tend to slow down email delivery. This technique also has the disadvantage that email must be delivered before it can be scanned. This eats up the user’s precious bandwidth unnecessarily,” he said.

“Newer techniques are relying on a ratings system for the servers that are attempting to send emails. If a server gains a good reputation, then it will be more likely to be trusted by a suitably enabled firewall. If the sender has a bad reputation for sending spam, then the email from this sender is more likely to be blocked.

“It’s only a matter of time before we start to see this technology becoming available to SME users. In the meantime, there are still plenty of options available for customers who are seeing so much spam arriving in their inbox.”

By Sorcha Corcoran

Pictured: Joe Molloy, sales director for managed services, IT Force