So why is everyone
else getting more spam?"> As they point out, AOL is at the forefront of civil actions against spammers, along with Microsoft and some other large ISPs. I always figured that to the extent these actions are effective we all benefit from them, but AOL would have us believe that the spammers arent so much chased out of business as much as off of AOL. I suppose its easy to scrub a list of e-mails of those in the aol.com domain, but I still have trouble believing that it really makes a difference. The main reason Im skeptical is that nobody else is claiming a similar trend, and lots of other sources are claiming just the opposite. After the AOL announcement, I sent out questions to many ISPs and other vendors and only got a few responses (it was a holiday weekend). The only major AOL competitor to respond was Microsoft, who said that they couldnt make an apples-to-apples comparison to AOLs claims because they track numbers differently. This does make sense, since AOL gave the funny numbers about messages in users spam folders and other such vagueness.Given that all other sources I follow claim that the amount of spam out there is going up, its hard to take AOLs numbers at face value. For instance, according to MessageLabs, the average percentage of e-mail identified as spam in 2004 was 73 percent; in 2003, the average was 40 percent. I see similar numbers from other sources. Are spammers really avoiding AOL to such an extent that their trend is a polar opposite of the industry? Click here to read more about spam trends. Apart from AOLs claim that theyve scared the spammers off, theres just one other explanation, for which Ill thank Stephen Canale of OnlyMyEmail. They had speculated that the protections at consumer ISPs were being hardened against spam more effectively and more quickly than business domains, and that user addresses at consumer ISPs are more volatile than at business domains. Therefore, eventually spammers might migrate to focusing on business addresses and the quality of their lists would improve. Its a theory and you can make a case for it, but I still think AOLs numbers are a bit too happy. Id love to be wrong, because if I am it means that aggressive filtering and aggressive legal action can be effective against spammers. We should know more by this time in 2006. Ill believe it more when I start to see other vendors making similar claims. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
Microsoft did say that "...over the last year MSN customers are receiving more than 60 percent less spam, mostly due to Microsofts "Smartscreen" filtering technology, which stops more then 3.2 billion spam messages a day worldwide." Now this is more of a plain and credible number, although it says nothing about the amount of spam coming into the MSN and Hotmail networks. Is this number better or worse than the AOL numbers? Its impossible to say; youd need to know more about how much actual spam was coming in before the alleged declines.