More than half of
emails now spam

4 May 2006

There were more junk emails than legitimate messages sent in Ireland last month as spam levels cleared the 50pc mark for the first time ever. The level had been increasing over the past number of months but between the end of March and the end of April it jumped by almost 7pc.

Last month 55.13pc of email circulating in Ireland was classed as spam, according to findings from IE Internet, the Dublin-based email and hosting provider.

“When we began publishing our statistics back in 2003 the one thing that always stood out was how our Irish-specific data varied from the available statistics at the time,” said IE Internet’s technical director Ken O’Driscoll. “Ireland had a much lower rate of spam than what was then considered the average. Irish mailboxes were not overflowing with spam as the general (American) statistics suggested. Since then we’ve seen that figure slowly creep up. Now, for the first time, Irish mail boxes are approaching the world average,” he added.

Since IE Internet began tracking these figures the origins of spam have altered significantly and have been moving away from a time when the US was responsible for sending up to four fifths of the unsolicited email coming into Ireland.

“Now we’re starting to see the top five sources even out as globalisation is embraced by spammers and production offshored and new players enter the market,” O’Driscoll observed.

In addition, IE Internet found that 18.2pc of email in April contained a virus or some form of malware, down from 21.34pc in March. “This might not seem like a lot but in real terms that means a whole bunch of previously infected machines were cleaned up,” said O’Driscoll, who added that there are still some computers that remain infected with old viruses.

Variants of the Mytob worm were the two most commonly occurring malware and between them they accounted for almost 40pc of all infections in April. Third-placed Netsky.S, which was originally designed to launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on 14 April and 23 April 2004, made a reappearance and was found in 14.9pc of all bad mails.

“This perked our interest because that particular virus is nearly two and a half years old,” O’Driscoll remarked. “After some snooping at the code it appears that this version is a slightly modified version of the original.”

By Gordon Smith