The Challenge of illegitimate emails
When the Web was in its infancy, spam was a minor annoyance and not much more. However, as with all other aspects of the Web, spam has evolved into something far more dangerous that is costing business enormously in terms of bandwidth, productivity and downtime.
To get a handle on the size of the spam problem, we need to look at the tidal wave of unsolicited emails that is drowning an enterprise,” says John Mc Loughlin, MD of J2 Software. “Reports estimate that as much as 80% of the billions of emails sent on a daily basis are spam. These illegitimate mails clog up and waste expensive bandwidth, put strain on servers, and waste time and money delivering these emails to the intended mailboxes, and even more in sifting through them.”
He says J2 conducted an investigation across its email user base to see if the research was correct in an African context. “When we looked at J2 Software’s customers using Mimecast, we saw that email rejections of SPAM, dangerous attachments and other illegitimate emails blocked in the cloud totalled an average of 1 905 459 a week, adding up to some 7.6 million emails being rejected monthly just on the J2 Software customer base.
These emails were rejected and never filtered down to our clients, saving them enormously in terms of both bandwidth and time spent sorting the wheat from the chaff.”
Mc Loughlin cites research done by the Radicati Group as showing the average size of an email without an attachment to be 26KB. “This translates into savings in excess of 47GB for our client base.”
He says over and above losses of bandwidth and productivity, spam can be dangerous in other ways. “Spam emails will also often try to trick the recipient into following links to malicious websites or to download dangerous applications which can then be used to target the business or individual by stealing sensitive information. By blocking and therefore preventing these mails form reaching our clients we have helped ensure that there is no chance of human error in infecting the corporate network.”
He adds that email is also still the most common vector for spreading malware, and that in addition to distributing dangerous applications, this sort of spam could crash your system and in turn the systems of people you email, or log your keystrokes to steal your financial login details.”
Phishing is another tactic that spammers use. “The cyber criminal will send out an email that is so close in appearance to the genuine article that it would fool all but the closest scrutiny. Phishing mails attempt to trick the recipient into clicking on a link and filling in their private financial information. Not only are bank accounts cleaned out in this way, but the cost of identity theft resulting from phishing can also run into the millions.”
The risks associated with spam and other illegitimate mail grows daily – spammers are continually adapting to try and bypass new methods of detection. This can cost not only money, but customers and reputation.