Overwhelmed and annoyed, e-mail users worldwide are uniting to stamp out the increased flow of spam targeting inboxes and inundating computer networks with dubious business offers, miracle drug claims and increasingly naughty and offensive propositions.
"E-mail users are deluged, upset and angry about spam," said Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software, which makes the iHateSpam filtering software.
But spam fighters appear to have a tough fight ahead of them. According to a recent report by e-mail security firm MessageLabs, spam is set to outnumber legitimate e-mail this year. In a review of its e-mail threats, MessageLabs said that spam currently accounts for 30 percent of all e-mail and it is expected to constitute 50 percent of e-mail by July 2003.
What's more, Jupiter Research, a division of Jupiter Media, reported that since 2001 the amount of spam the average e-mail user receives a day has increased from 3.7 to 6.2 messages. That number is due to increase, Jupiter said, and by 2007 e-mail users will receive more than 3,900 spam messages a year.
While these reports are enough to make even hard-bitten e-mail lovers consider switching back to snail mail, other experts say that spam inundation fears are overblown and that highly effective spam fighting weapons are at hand.
So far there has been no consensus, however, on the best methods for fighting spam. While some look to a multitiered approach, such as filtering at the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and client levels, with antispam legislation as another safeguard, others believe that one finely honed tool could break the spam business model and restore user inboxes to their previously uncluttered states.
After all, expecting users to opt-in or opt-out of mail lists, or actually track down and sue spammers is too complicated, they say.
A group of programmers and researchers who gathered at a spam conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in
"Traditionally, people have thought that spam filtering doesn't really work. That changed in the last year," said Paul Graham, organizer of the MIT Spam Conference and an emerging authority on antispam tools. Graham, who lives in