SPAM, SPAM and more SPAM in Vermont


As we are all familiar with, SPAM messages are (sadly) a part of our daily lives. Unethical companies, individuals and services send out literally billions of messages every day. CAN-SPAM was created as the federal guideline for what commercial entities can and cannot do in relation to SPAM and “unsolicited commercial email”. Of course the SPAMmers do not follow the rules.

As someone that has been online since the mid 90s, I have 26 email addresses that I use to run my businesses. These email addresses have been online for so long, that I do get a ton of SPAM emails directed my way. It is a daily slog to delete the batches that come in.

You might have noticed that there was a large spike in SPAM messages the last 2 months making it through most SPAM/virus filters and even getting through SPAM filters built into Microsoft Outlook.

Email hosting companies, anti SPAM services, and Email software companies constantly work against the SPAMmers. It is a constant battle. Here is a brief outline of how this goes: SPAMmers change their tactics. We respond, services such as SPAMAssassian respond, and Outlook updates their Junk filters. So at first, the new SPAM tactic needs detection. Then a fix needs to be developed. Then tested. Then modified if it doesn’t have the desired effect. Then distributed. And then evolved again.

And then the SPAMmers change their tactics again. This ongoing pattern is the never ending battle against unwanted, now illegal SPAM messages.

We process millions of emails a month and over 90% of these emails are SPAM and never make it to our customer’s inbox. Some get through. Even a 1% failure to capture a new SPAM technique means that individuals receive dozens of extra SPAM messages each day.

The cost to service providers mounts every month. The cost to our customers for time lost cleaning out their inbox is almost incalculable!! Without the efforts of anti-SPAM services, outlook and email filters, the situation would be much worse.

Though SPAM rates seem to be falling in 2011 – see Symantec’s report on spam rates: Symantec SPAM Report

Why not just make SPAM filters extremely strong and aggressively filter email? This is certainly an option and some companies opt for tight filters that allow very few unsolicited messages through. However, many of the customers at Vermont Design Works actively want to receive email from people they don’t know (often in the form of new leads for business, or new donors, or tourists looking for information, or parents looking at a new school, the list is long!). Given the need for unsolicited lead generation, it is difficult to measure how strict a SPAM filter should be. For example, if a new home construction builder misses a half a million dollar building project because the SPAM filters falsely flagged a legitimate request for new business as SPAM, I am sure it would be worth loosening the filter to get more SPAM (and get all the legitimate leads as well).

This delicate balance is played out every day on servers, with filters, and at web hosting companies such as ours every day, week and month. We constantly evolve our approach…but the sinister SPAMmers are out there changing tactics in response. And we’ll be there to thwart them.

Cheers, Andrew