Friday, July 20, 2012

Global spam dropped 50% in two days

Grum has been demolished, Lethic harmed

I've never considered spam to be one of the greatest problems. Even when my primary e-mail account belonged to the domain of a countryside university that just didn't have resources to protect the HEP physics users against spam – I think it was called the Harvard University – I was getting something like 30 spam e-mails a day and the peak was short.

When spam was born... This 1970 Monty Python sketch (filmed before Al Gore invented the Internet) is the actual reason why e-mail spam is called spam. The similarity was recognized and the term spam was coined by trolls who spammed early Internet forums by many copies of the word "spam". :-)

With an efficient enough mail client where I could simply press "D" 30 times, the problem was equivalent to losing 30 seconds a day.

Gmail and other major providers have sophisticated methods to filter spam. I could still observe something like 1,000 mails redirected to the spam folder each month. The filtering worked very well, perhaps too well; a more problematic issue were the rare problems in which a non-spam mail was classified as spam but I think that I have already setup the white lists to avoid such things. What about you?

Recently, the spam folder would only contain 800 e-mails or so. Chances are that in a month, it will only have 400. What about your numbers?

The reason for the expected drop was that the third major botnet called Grum was demolished:
Grum takedown: '50% of worldwide spam is gone'
It's a fun story about experts finding the command servers in Russia, Holland, and Panama. Suddenly they start to cut them from the network. The botnet makes a desperate attempt to save its life by replacing its cut heads with brand new servers in Ukraine. ;-) However, Atif Mushtaq – what a nice name for a major person fighting against the global cyber-terror – alerted his colleagues in Russia and elsewhere and they managed to cut the new Ukrainian heads, too.

The network was sending 15-30 percent of spam mail every day: almost 20 billion mails a day means that if you're an average user, you got several if not a dozen of spam emails from this botnet every day. Another botnet, Lethic, was scared so its "production" decreased, too. In combination, the spam rate may have decreased by 50% from Monday. Quite a change in several days. Of course, one could ask why it wasn't done earlier.

I think that spam is one of the problems that isn't really a difficult problem for the civilization. There are many other examples, too...


  1. Funny story. So no more ads for Viagra pills ! Yeahy ;)

  2. As of a couple of years ago I was (using Gmail's spam filter) receiving ~6,000 spam messages/month. A few months ago I noticed that the spam rate was down appreciably: it now averages roughly 1,000/month. It's an improvement.

    The real problem is that spam filter now occasionally flag useful messages as spam (even Gmail's filter, which is quite good), so sometimes I miss messages sent to me.