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Monday, July 14, 2008

The Spam Experiment

No, this is not about what you ate for dinner.

A recent experiment by security firm, McAfee, showed that the average Netizen receives about 70 spam e-mails every day! They invited 50 people from around the world to surf around without spam-blocking software and based their findings on the results.

While spam is a worldwide bandwidth-wasting, time-consuming problem, some opponents say the results were a bit skewed. There are numerous sites at which you can sign-up for newsletters and promotional offers you wish to receive, and some marketers note this is not "spam." What they do not tell you is that, when you sign-up for these promotional offers and information, the company then sells your name to other "opt-in" advertisers who most certainly do spam you!

Signing-up for these "offers" gives the company your personal information, including your general interests and shopping habits. They then compile this data into lists they sell to other companies, who use that information to target you. The Weirding chooses to make no distinction between "commercial" e-mail and spam, largely because there is none; e-mails with nothing but advertising are spam - whether you signed-up for them or not. Many people will sign-up for "newsletters" or to receive "special promotions" from a site or company, only to receive e-mail after e-mail of nothing more than blatant spam.

A whole lot of sites now forego the "opt-in" process, instead tracking your activity through the use of cookies, spyware, and malware they install unbeknownst to you. Whether or not these companies are directly involved in manufacturing or selling anything is regardless; this information is compiled and sold to other companies for direct-marketing purposes. The experiment noticed a shift from mass spamming to a more targeted, direct-marketing approach, proving this.

Nearly 10% of the spam caught during the experiment were classified as "phishing" spam. "Phishing" e-mails ask for important information, such as login names, passwords, account numbers, and more. They are often designed to look like official correspondence from the company. The majority of spam had to do with financial matters, such as pre-approved loans and credit cards. One spokesperson involved said, "spam is undeniably linked to cybercrime."

The United States topped the list.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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