If Irish workers believed they spent more time than ever deleting spam last year, their suspicions were correct as new figures show that spam levels in 2005 rose significantly on previous years, with monthly rates of 38pc on average — almost two out of every five emails.
In June alone the level was double what it had been for the same month in 2004 and the average rate was up by almost 10pc.
The figures come from IE Internet’s Annual Email Security Review, which collates the monthly statistics that the company gathers on email traffic in Ireland. The Dublin firm collects these figures by monitoring the email accounts of 15,000 business customers.
According to the report data, the June spam level was not even the highest in the whole year but it illustrates the extent to which unsolicited commercial email is becoming an ever-greater presence in employee inboxes.
IE Internet has attributed the spam surge to growing adoption of broadband, as the always-on connection gives spammers the opportunity to send out large volumes of messages. On average, 29pc of Irish emails were classed as spam in 2004. By last year that figure jumped to 38pc.
Another pattern to emerge has been the presence of South Korea — a country with high broadband penetration — among the leading sources of spam. It still lags the US by some distance, however, although data from the later half of the year shows the country declining in overall terms as a sender of spam.
Last year approximately 12pc or one in eight emails contained a virus, the IE Internet report found. The most common strain in 2005 was the Netsky.P worm, which had been the second most frequently occurring the year before. This spreads by social engineering; that is, it relies on users opening an email attachment that then triggers the infection.
The second most prevalent malware was Zafi.D, which stayed the course throughout the year. Last January it alone accounted for 50pc of all infected emails and more than 40pc the following month. IE Internet has forecast that the worm will remain a threat for at least the first quarter of 2006.
Virus growth was not as dramatic as that of spam last year. The overall number of messages carrying viruses in 2005 rose by three percentage points over the levels one year earlier.
By Gordon Smith