Unsolicited email was first considered a bit of joke earning the jocular name of spam. However, as the spam volumes rose to epidemic proportions what was a minor crisis in the life of an IT professional soon snowballed into a major crisis. Factual figures estimate that spam amounts to nearly 95 percent of all emails. According to Jupiter Research reports, the active email consumer received a shocking 3253 pieces of spam in 2005.
This matter has to be taken up seriously these days. The daily flood of junk email has an adverse effect on the corporations by clogging their networks and filling up mail server bandwidth. It can also act as a gateway for serious network related threats such as Trojans, viruses, worms, and phishing scams that penetrate corporate networks. The cost of spam not just involves the cost of providing the extra bandwidth but also encompasses all the IT Departments protecting their organizations from the various threats as just seen.
Spam is a driving force behind the increasing number of data breaches in the corporate world. The impact of international awareness and the enforcement of anti-spam laws in countries like USA have forced the spammers to shift their operations to countries where the law is less regulated. According to the IT security firm Sophos, the spam operators are working hand in glove with hackers and virus’ writers with 60 percent of all spam coming from computers infected with malware. According to Webroot Software’s State of Spyware report 2005 was considered as the biggest year yet for spyware.
Apart from just the security threats the firms face from spam, there are concerns that are even more serious the firms face. In today’s world where corporate ethics matter a lot, firms are increasingly accountable for the actions of their employees. Any offensive message from a disgruntled employee can tarnish the name of the organization. Since there can be no definitive solution, the only way to reduce the threats of the email related threats is to deploy ever more sophisticated server side filtering to filter out spam and malicious emails from reaching the network.
A survey of Bank of Scotland (BoS) has found that about 37% of UK small firms were badly hit due to unsolicited spam, viruses, and faxes. The study has found that though the cost of minor data losses and firewalls is less than 1000 Pounds a year for two-thirds of small firms a full-scale virus attack can be terminal on entrepreneurs on tight budgets. For over fifty firms polled, it was found that there was one firm approximately, for which the cost of the viruses exceeded 10,000 Pounds a year. A further 40 percent of the managers claimed that junk email significantly added to their costs, while one in ten lost an estimated 10,000 Pounds a year through lost productivity and purchasing email filtering systems. Though laws have come up which state that individuals are not allowed to send emails or any other means of communication without prior permission, these are valid only in the UK and did not provide any help in reducing the flood of spam in the USA.
According to Eddie Morrison of BoS computer viruses are clearly one of the scourges of our business age. He observes that it has become increasingly easy for small firms to be bombarded with multiple unsolicited emails and faxes for advertising and other purposes.
Small firms are even more vulnerable to spam with a junk of them still without a junk email policy. The research conducted by Clearswift has found that 34 percent of small companies do not have measures in place to combat spam, while a further 57 percent of firms with a policy of not communicating about it to the staff.