Could the worldwide growth of spam be reaching its peak earlier than expected? Figures from Symantec’s email monitoring unit Brightmail appear to suggest that levels of unsolicited commercial email have stabilised.
According to data released for the month of December, 67pc of emails qualifies as spam. The same rate was recorded in November. For each of the three months prior to that point, spam volumes were at a similar level of 66pc.
This has led to speculation in US reports that the amount of spam may be levelling off, counter to predictions that the problem would continue to worsen, to a point where some observers claimed that email could have been rendered effectively useless.
Brightmail, which was acquired by Symantec late last year, has been reporting spam levels of more than 50pc of all email since July 2003.
Breaking down the figures by type, the company found that internet scams and fraud account for 24pc of the spam sent, making it the fastest-growing type of spam. Advertising comprised 23pc, pornography was found in 14pc of cases and 11pc were health remedies.
To judge from Brightmail’s statistics, the overall level of spam has not decreased and it still accounts for millions of emails sent daily. However, another security firm MessageLabs reported that the percentage of spam had actually dropped since last summer. To put this in context however, MessageLabs claimed that of all email sent in July, the volume that qualified as spam was as high as 94pc. Its findings for November reported a spam volume of close to 74pc.
Locally, the problem does not appear to be as bad. Tracker figures from Dublin-based IE Internet show that on average during 2004, 28.56pc of Irish email qualified as spam. The highest single monthly figure was 39.35pc, recorded in December. The high figure may be partly due to the fact that many businesses close for a week or more around Christmas, which would result in lower levels of legitimate emails being sent during the month.
By Gordon Smith