Video Screencast Help
Symantec to Separate Into Two Focused, Industry-Leading Technology Companies. Learn more.
Security Response

The High Cost of Spam

Created: 08 Dec 2006 08:00:00 GMT • Updated: 23 Jan 2014 18:54:37 GMT
Kelly Conley's picture
0 0 Votes
Login to vote

Besides the obvious inconvenience of time wasted clicking through and deleting spam email messages, what are some of the negative effects of spam? To the average user, it’s as simple as having better things to do than hunt through their email accounts for ”real” messages – messages they want to receive. For businesses, it is money spent paying employees for work they aren’t doing because they’re spending work hours picking through emails.

Then we have the hapless user who falls into a phish trap. To this user the problem can include a financial hit, not to mention the endless hours spent trying to get their money back or pursuing legal action. This often leads to a long lasting fear of future dealings with the company that was phished. This scenario also has a negative impact on said company because they may lose a customer do to fear of recurrence. In fact, they may lose several customers if word spreads on the Internet. We call this “negative brand image” – and no company wants that for themselves. It doesn’t end there. Unfortunately, the negative effects of spam reach beyond the recipient and phished companies.

For ISPs, spam equals increased operational costs in the form of bandwidth and storage. All messages require bandwidth to send and receive, and bandwidth costs money. The higher the message load, the more bandwidth required, and all of these messages must be stored somewhere. ISPs need to ensure their customers are able to send and receive their messages and must continually make accommodations for the message loads on their systems, including those percentages of messages that are spam. If you think of the fact that over 50 percent of the world’s email is spam, then take into account the costs of storage and bandwidth for that amount of mail.

Another problem that the ISPs deal with is the “false positive rate.” When a spammer spams from an ISP, there is a chance that the ISP may have their IP addresses blacklisted. This may result in some legitimate traffic not being delivered. This will cost the ISP even more in operational costs (including technician time) in resolving the issue. This may also result in a negative brand image for the ISP and the potential loss of customers.

In summary, there are multiple effects of spam that are negative. So, what can we do to protect ourselves and help turn the tables in the fight against spam? First, it’s critical that computer users protect their desktop and, if possible, their Internet gateway against spam using an up-to-date antivirus, firewall, and spam filter. Second, users should not click on any email that appears to be spam, nor should a reply be sent to any email that is spam. Doing so could alert the spammer(s) that the user is replying from a legitimate email address (therefore, the spammer would find it worth the time to send more spam in the direction of that Inbox). Last, but not least, users should never click on any link in a suspicious email. If it is felt that the sender is legitimate, users should contact the sender directly (not by email) to ensure the email message is also legitimate.