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Assets in the spam ecosystem


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Acknowledging Joe Gill's post in the News groups, from the NYT:

Study Sees Way to Win spam Fight

... It turned out that 95 percent of the credit card transactions for the spam-advertised drugs and herbal remedies they bought were handled by just three financial companies - one based in Azerbaijan, one in Denmark and one in Nevis, in the West Indies.

The researchers looked at nearly a billion messages and spent several thousand dollars on about 120 purchases. No single purchase was more than $277.

If a handful of companies like these refused to authorize online credit card payments to the merchants, "you'd cut off the money that supports the entire spam enterprise," said one of the scientists, Stefan Savage of the University of California, San Diego, who worked with colleagues at San Diego and Berkeley and at the International Computer Science Institute. ...

Ð…pam has proved notoriously difficult to defeat over the years, despite sophisticated filtering technologies and legal investigations and convictions. Seven years after the famous prediction by Bill Gates, then chairman of Microsoft, that spam would be eradicated in just two years, about 90 percent of all e-mail is spam.

An earlier study undertaken by the scientists showed that a single commercial spam e-mail campaign generated three messages for every person on the planet. That same study revealed that to sell $100 worth of Viagra, a spam provider needed to send 12.5 million messages. ...

The NYT article also links to the paper prepared by the research group and due for release shortly. Alas, it would be plain wrong to quote from that paper before its release so I leave it as an exercise for those interested to explore it in the meantime.

Western economies fuel the greater part of spam industry as we perceive it, the regulators within those economies (acting in concert) have the capability to destroy that industry in its current form if the benefits of so doing are verifiable and if there is the political will. Of course there would be "costs" - and the ways in which the internet might be abused in other ways for illicit profit are virtually limitless - but in terms of the present problem ... well, it would have to be worth some consideration, wouldn't it?

Apparently on a minor scale, but no doubt hampered by lack of general application, similar restrictions apply to on-line betting in some parts. People should, perhaps, be free to become victims (I'm not so sure of that). But - when it comes to the burden of spam on the infrastructure of the internet, also the associated botnets with all their abuses and dangers, and even in terms of the social costs of the scamming that infiltrates the mass of more "commercial" spam - they are dragging us all down. And, conveniently, they are a minority (12.5 million spam messages to move $100 worth of of a product that "sells itself"!).

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