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Can-Spam Increased Spam

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the eggs-bacon-sausage-and-sniffle dept.

Spam 362

andy1307 writes "According to New York Times, spam has actually gone up [Free registration required. You gave real info, right?] since the CAN-SPAM act went into effect. There is a graphic in the article that illustrates this increase. Before the CAN-SPAM act was passed, spam was about 60% of all e-mail traffic. Now it's 80%. In a we-told-you-so quote, Steve Linford, the founder of the Spamhaus Project, says CAN-SPAM legalized spam by giving bulk advertisers permission to send junk e-mail as long as they followed certain rules. Slashdot covered this story last year. For companies that offer offshore "bulk advertising" servers, business is booming. A survey from Stanford University estimates the global cost of spam in terms of lost productivity to be at 50 billion $ and 17 billion $ in the US alone. CAN-SPAM does give prosecutors some leverage to go after the merchants - but it must be proved that they knew, or should have known, that their wares were being fed into the illegal spam chain. " The BBC has a related story talking about rates of spam, viruses, and scam mail.

cancel ×

362 comments

And the spammers seemed like such nice people (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541632)

Who would've thought they'd abuse a new law?

Open Letter to Michael... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541922)


Dearest Michael,


It's been 4 long hours since I left your apartment. You looked so innocent as you slept. I kissed your cheek but a tear landed on your face. Thankfully you didn't wake up.

I can't go on like this, Michael. Yes, yes, yes; I have strong feelings for you but I've been so used. When I submit stories to slashdot and you accept them I just know that my bum is in for abuse that night. Certainly the money we split from the advertising should cover that part of our business arrangement, yes?

We never cuddle anymore. You never ask how my day was. When I get home you just say "Well, Roland, I accepted another submission" with your penis already erect and lubricated awaiting me. You never kiss me anymore. You never stroke my hand or send me flowers.

I cannot continue to be used like this.

It's over, Michael. Please don't try to find me.

Roland P.

769bfa901720ca09dd5fda25d1acdea2

Duh... (2, Interesting)

GenP (686381) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541644)

Seriously, who didn't see this coming? Who loves clueless legislators? Spammers do!

Re:Duh... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541751)

I didn't see this coming. Can I have a job as a clueless legislator please?

Re:Duh... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541925)

Seriously, who didn't see this coming? Who loves clueless legislators? Spammers do!

You get what you vote for.

The day the feds take a real step toward busting spam is the day they enjoin certain IP addresses from connecting into the United States.

It may seem a fantastic idea, but I doubt it would be that hard to pull off. If the PRC get bent out of shape about it, just have Condi fire off a letter explaining the injunction will be swiftly removed once the violator steps into line.

Of course, we hope such powers are only used for good and not evil...

Re:Duh... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 9 years ago | (#11542031)

> Seriously, who didn't see this coming? Who loves
> clueless legislators? Spammers do!

Well there's that wonderously horrible grey area between unsolicited and solicited spam. We have to deal with this on an infrequent basis, where people actually do sign up for things, and then whine and snivel when mail comes. Clearly you can't define it legally as "anything a user doesn't want to see in his Inbox".

It's a shame too... (5, Funny)

Powercntrl (458442) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541645)

I was truly hoping Can Spam meant sealing spammers up in airtight containers, preserving them for study by future generations.

Re:It's a shame too... (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541659)

> I was truly hoping Can Spam meant sealing spammers up in airtight containers, preserving them for study by future generations.

What do you have against archaeologists from the future?

Re:It's a shame too... (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541785)

Read what he said again ;) "preserving for", not "preventing from" :)

Karma Whore (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541680)

5, Funny! LOOK AT ME I HAD THIS FUCKING GEM READY TO GO HERE IT IS FOLKS HAHAHAHAHA KING COMEDY 5 5 5 FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY.



Here's my shitty encore:
Do you have prince albert in a can? You better go let him out then!



The diarrhea that passes for comedy here on slashdot is apalling, and the pathetic karma whoring that goes with the "clever" comments is even worse.

Re:Karma Whore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541937)

I think you need to stop drinking coffee.

I THOUGHT TO I UP THE FUCK SHUT YOU TOLD (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541940)

The only thing worse than slashdot humor would be your spelling. Fuck you. You're neither funny nor clever.

CAN-spam (0, Redundant)

fredistheking (464407) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541651)


They don't call it the CAN-spam act for nothing.

what's to attribute specifically to CAN-SPAM? (4, Interesting)

jxyama (821091) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541652)

could the increase be due to natural causes? that people are spamming more, regardless of CAN-SPAM?

what's the fraction of spam that's sent which is CAN-SPAM compliant? how has that increased? (no i didn't RTFA since i haven't registered. does the article answer this?)

Slashdot, Jxyama. Jxyama, Slashdot. (5, Insightful)

LordPixie (780943) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541697)

Welcome to Slashdot. Where correlation does not mean causality for things like piracy, but does for things like legislation inducing spam. The trick is to remember that the evidence supports your position, and then figure out why.


--LordPixie

Re:Slashdot, Jxyama. Jxyama, Slashdot. (2)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541749)

Thanks for the new sig. Superb!!

Re:Slashdot, Jxyama. Jxyama, Slashdot. (1)

LordPixie (780943) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541970)

Hah ! I'm honored. Thank you !


--LordPixie

Cross your T's and dot your... (2, Funny)

vikramrn (832734) | more than 9 years ago | (#11542048)

thats CAUSALITY. you left an 'i' out of your .sg :)

Re:Slashdot, Jxyama. Jxyama, Slashdot. (1)

Night Goat (18437) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541968)

While I agree with your point, Slashdot's not to blame here. The headline of the NYT article is "Law Barring Junk E-Mail Allows a Flood Instead". So the conclusion jumping is being done by the Times here, not Slashdot. Of course, the sensationalistic tone of the submission is what got it posted. But give credit to the right group of exaggerators.

Re:what's to attribute specifically to CAN-SPAM? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541704)

no i didn't RTFA since i haven't registered.

bugmenot [bugmenot.com] is your friend.

Misleading Statistic (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541716)

Nothing is to attribute this directly to CAN-SPAM. If you look at the graph supplied, there has been (on average) a linear increase in the % of email sent that is spam. Spam has always been on the increase and CAN-SPAM has done nothing to slow it down. Its all just a missrepresentation of the information.

Re:Misleading Statistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541806)

Holy crap! Pretty soon, then, we're going to have 110% spam!

"That's impossible. No one can give more than one hundred percent. By definition, that is the most anyone can give..."

Re:what's to attribute specifically to CAN-SPAM? (2, Insightful)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541793)

No, the article doesn't really answer these questions. It only has anectodes and theorising, such as this:

"Can Spam legalized spamming itself," said Steve Linford, the founder of the Spamhaus Project, a London organization that is one of the leading groups intent on eliminating junk e-mail. And in making spam legal, he said, the new rules also invited flouting by those intent on being outlaws.

Not everyone agrees that the Can Spam law is to blame, and lawsuits invoking the new legislation - along with other suits using state laws - have been mounted in the name of combating the problem. Besides Microsoft, other large Internet companies like AOL and Yahoo have used the federal law as the basis for suits.

It's hard to know what to believe, really. Personally, I tend to lean towards the notion that spam is simply too large a problem, and the money involved is so great, that combating it with laws alone is simply futile.

Correlation != Causality (4, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541661)

A fact that seems lost on most journalists these days.

Re:Correlation != Causality (5, Insightful)

Trepalium (109107) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541745)

Not just journalists, either. Anyone with an agenda loves to forget these things, too. If you look at their handy graph, it looks like fairly linear growth both before and after CAN-SPAM, so blaming the law may be a little out of order.

Re:Correlation != Causality (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#11542026)

I don't recall any particular increase in junk mail with "ADV" in the subject, either.

Re:Correlation != Causality (1)

Scoria (264473) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541756)

When "journalists" begin considering one democratic election to be sufficient justification for not posing appropriate questions, one realizes that most everything is lost on "journalists" these days.

Re:Correlation != Causality (2, Insightful)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541832)

When "journalists" begin considering one democratic election to be sufficient justification for not posing appropriate questions, one realizes that most everything is lost on "journalists" these days.

(For the USA) As I understand it, this started in the mid 80's during the Regan Administration. (Not because of Regan) When Network News started to consider themselves more as Entertainment rather than Information.

Re:Correlation != Causality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11542020)

> As I understand it, this started in the mid 80's during the Regan
> Administration.

When did the ability to spell the names of presidents start to decline?

Re:Correlation != Causality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541807)

Oh you think so? Well I happen to have some chart over here that shows as correlations increase, causality increases accordingly. Or I'll have a chart in a minute at least.... where's my marker?

Re:Correlation != Causality (5, Informative)

paulzeye (736282) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541827)

Actually, the article mentioned that there could be other reasons for the increase in spam. One example was filters blocking more spam, and spammers needing to send out more spam to maintain their levels. The article wasn't bad, you should try reading it.

Re:Correlation != Causality (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541920)

The article wasn't bad, you should try reading it.

Advice that the original poster might want to take to heart as well.

Re:Correlation != Causality (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541935)

I did read it. Both pages. Did you see any mention of "other reasons" in the headline (which is all most /.'ers read?

Re:Correlation != Causality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541934)

Dude. I love David Hume as much as the next guy but seriously, there ARE times when correlation happens BECAUSE one thing caused another. If you lived your life by the mantra corr != caus, you'd have a hard time staying alive.

Re:Correlation != Causality (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541981)

You're absolutely right. But when there is a cause & effect relationship it can (and usually is) explained. I didn't see any such explanation in this article. It's mostly conjecture being reported as fact.

Re:Correlation != Causality (5, Insightful)

badasscat (563442) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541950)

A fact that seems lost on most journalists these days.

And I see that R'ing TFA is still lost on most Slashdotters these days...

This is not an article about how CAN-SPAM has increased spam. It is an article about how spam has increased despite CAN-SPAM. That is a very different thing. Several viewpoints are given from all sides involved on why it's happening, but at no time does the article itself suggest CAN-SPAM is the cause - only that it has not been an effective deterrent.

I think that's something we can all agree on.

Re:Correlation != Causality (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541952)

yea yea. Try this: "correlation can provide excellent confirmation of a suspected causal relationship."

Thats why we run all kinds of fun statistical tests to see how relevant certain variables are.


Anyways, solutions: inform these companies (by registered mail, return receipt required, etc) just how their products are being sold.

Now you can show "that they knew, or should have known, that their wares were being fed into the illegal spam chain"

Re:Correlation != Causality (1)

LEgregius (550408) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541979)

However, we can say that it has not stopped spam. It has, essentially, done nothing.

SPAM! (0)

LegendOfLink (574790) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541668)

I don't understand why people hate fake meat so much? I mean, put it on sandwich, with some horseradish, and you're all set to go!

Correlation != Causation (4, Insightful)

jkujawa (56195) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541673)

It's likely that spam would have increased anyway.

Re:Correlation != Causation (2, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541767)

It's likely that spam would have increased anyway.

Exactly. Look at the graph. What exactly do they think that graph shows? To me it looks like a perfect trendline.

Re:Correlation != Causation (4, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541949)

Actually, what this graph shows is the failure of the CAN-SPAM act to do anything.

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

KontinMonet (737319) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541779)

That's no excuse for not putting together some decent anti-spam laws. 80% of traffic (that I'm paying for indirectly) is classed as utter junk. When will legislators do something, when it's 99.99999999% of all traffic, when corporates at last start complaining 'their' business is being hurt? Sheesh.

Re:Correlation != Causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541931)

eighty per cent of _email_
eighty per cent of traffic is bittorrent

Re:Correlation != Causation (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541782)

and not to mention, causation != causality. That's how unrelated those two facts about spam are!

Could this have nothing to do with Can-Spam? (2, Insightful)

tabkey12 (851759) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541676)

We don't want to know if the relative amount of SPAM has increased - that is no surprise given that it is supposedly a good (if unethical) business model. How about whether the rate of increase has changed - that would be the only analysis that would show CAN-SPAM legitimised some spam messages.

Here's the problem (2, Funny)

elid (672471) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541679)

"There's way too much money involved," Mr. Gillespie said, noting that his service, which is currently down, provided him with a six-figure income at its peak. "And if there's money to be made, people are going to go out and get it."

This is the problem. Until the business of spamming stops producing profits, spam won't stop. It's beyond my comprehension why anyone would buy anything from spam.

Re:Here's the problem (2, Funny)

RandoX (828285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541912)

I could give you a thousand reasons. Give me your email address...

Re:Here's the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541938)

...says the guy with a free iPod link in his sig.

Re:Here's the problem (2, Insightful)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 9 years ago | (#11542001)

They're not making money by making sales. They're making money by being paid to advertise (spam).

Response rate for junk-mail in the real world is something like 2%, maybe less. Yet advertisers throw piles of money into doing it, because the income that 2% brings them is worth it. To them.

Spam is even easier.. there's no material cost involved to print up paper. Assuming spammers charge normal advertising rates, their profits are up a considerable amount.

Re:Here's the problem (5, Insightful)

gunnk (463227) | more than 9 years ago | (#11542017)

There is something deeply ironic about a post stating incredulity that people would buy anything from spam... ... in a post with a sig to a "offerprizes.com" -- "free" iPod stuff.

Rules (2, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541683)

CAN-SPAM legalized spam by giving bulk advertisers permission to send junk e-mail as long as they followed certain rules

So um... If they are following a standard set of rules, then logic seems to tell me that someone isn't apply their server side rules to full effect. No?

Can-Span? (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541702)

So what's Can-Span (see title of slashdot article)?

Re:Can-Span? (1)

SCOX_Free (806174) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541805)

Well, I can tell you this much, there are going to be a LOT of spanners out there quaking in their boots when they here about this important piece of legislation...

Oh well... (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541706)

A growing number of so-called bulletproof Web host services like Mr. Gillespie's offer spam-friendly merchants access to stable offshore computer servers - most of them in China - where they can park their Web sites, with the promise that they will not be shut down because of spam complaints.

And this is exactly what we have been saying all along. No matter what laws are passed, no matter what we do to combat spam, the spammers will always find another way to make a buck.

One of the spammers quoted in the article claimed that he didn't care about the lawsuits... He was making too much money to stop.

If you're making too much money and they somehow make a law that actually works stick do you think that they are just going to go away? Yeah, I do, to other countries where those laws won't mean anything...

Keep those firewalls banning entire countries (.kr and .br) and keep banning /16's and /8's until it is gone. The spammers are here to stay.

Some solutions to spam (4, Interesting)

mgv (198488) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541707)

I've had this thought for a while, about what can be done about spam, and I have a couple of ideas for the /. community.

1) Legislate so that merhandise sold using spam cannot legally demand payment (eg via visa/mastercard). Puts alot of pain onto these companies, but also would make it quite unattractive to sell stuff this way if you knew that the money you got could be reclaimed if it was demonstrated that you used spam as an advertising medium

2) Employ teams of people to respond to SPAM (at a government level). SPAM works because they get a low return rate, but the people who do respond actually buy stuff. Thats what keeps it all going. If we made it so that a decent percentage of the replies were time wasters, the average company would suddenly have to employ lots of resources to deal with false responses. In effect, it would spam them. Suddenly its no longer as cheap to advertise this way.

Just a couple of thoughts, but I'd love to see what the /. community thinks of these, or if anyone else has any ideas on what to do about spam. (And I don't mean better filters by this).

Michael

Re:Some solutions to spam (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541887)

2) Employ teams of people to respond to SPAM (at a government level). SPAM works because they get a low return rate, but the people who do respond actually buy stuff. Thats what keeps it all going. If we made it so that a decent percentage of the replies were time wasters, the average company would suddenly have to employ lots of resources to deal with false responses. In effect, it would spam them. Suddenly its no longer as cheap to advertise this way.

This wouldn't work as they use a computer system to take order, like at amazon. They don't involve themselves personally in the sale.

I don't like item 2 (1)

Mustang Matt (133426) | more than 9 years ago | (#11542033)

I think that's the wrong direction and a waste of taxpayer money. I'd rather see that money be used as the budget for a team following money trails to spammers.

I think the proper way to deal with spam is to crystal-clearly define it and make it illegal. Then have a division of the FBI that purchases items and follows the money trail.

If it truly is 90% American companies that are behind the actual products sold in spam this should work.

Notice the trend - Noncausal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541713)

Correlation (or lack thereof) does not imply causation (or lack thereof).

If you look at the graphic [nytimes.com] carefully, you'll notice that there is a nice linear trend line. I'd like to argue that CAN-SPAM is entirely irrelevant to criminal activities, and posit that whether or not the bill had been passed that we'd still be exactly where we are today.

As a side note, with a 20% growth per annum, by next year illegitimate email traffic should reach 100% of all email traffic!

Stats appear at least vaguely correct.. (3, Insightful)

James_G (71902) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541722)

For what it's worth, the graph of spams seems to mirror quite nicely the spam stats I've been tracking [cracksmokingmonkeys.net] for a couple of years.

I have to wonder if you can really say that CAN-SPAM made it get worse. To me it looks like there was a brief drop off, and then it resumed the normal climb. Do we seriously believe that a significant amount of spam wasn't sent before CAN-SPAM, because the originators were worried about it being illegal? Seriously?

What percentage of the spam complied? (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541728)

We also expected the volume of spam to increase with or without CAN-SPAM. So what percentage of this current volume of spam actually complies with CAN-SPAM?

Obligatory quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541733)

<Nelson>HAH HAH!</Nelson>

Coincidental Correlation (5, Insightful)

kajoob (62237) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541734)

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Definition:

The name in Latin means "after this therefore because of this".
This describes the fallacy. An author commits the fallacy when
it is assumed that because one thing follows another that the
one thing was caused by the other.

Examples:

(i) Immigration to Alberta from Ontario increased. Soon
after, the welfare rolls increased. Therefore, the increased
immigration caused the increased welfare rolls.

(ii) I took EZ-No-Cold, and two days later, my cold
disappeared.

Proof:

Show that the correlation is coincidental by showing that: (i)
the effect would have occurred even if the cause did not
occur, or (ii) that the effect was caused by something other
than the suggested cause.

References

(Cedarblom and Paulsen: 237, Copi and Cohen: 101)

'Nother example (1)

KontinMonet (737319) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541825)

All trousers have two legs
All men wear trousers
Therefore all men have two legs.

Re:'Nother example (2, Funny)

MaestroSartori (146297) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541890)

I am a Scotsman, you insensitive clod!

(kilts are better than trousers, clearly) :)

Re:Coincidental Correlation (1)

Psiolent (160884) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541993)

I certainly agree that there's no evidence that the act increased the amount of spam. However, I think what is telling is that the act failed to decrease the amount of spam.

Re:Coincidental Correlation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11542053)

"Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc"

"The name in Latin means 'after this therefore because of this'."

Then why didn't you just say that in English in the first place!!!

Support the Society to End Foreign Language References Just So You Look Clever

"Can-Span" increased Spam.... (1)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541741)

*sigh* and I mentioned this while it was still in the mysterious future, your funeral CmdrTaco :-/ I tried...

Increased? (1)

tgibbs (83782) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541746)

Actually, the chart suggests that the act produced a short-lived decrease in spam volume, after which spam continued to increase at about the same rate as before the law.

Re:Increased? (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541987)

I wouldn't even give the act credit for the short decrease, as it appears that the level of spam goes through series of decreases and increases but a pretty much overall linear increase in level.

Can-Span (1)

Luigi30 (656867) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541750)

Can-Span? Is that a law legalizing screwdrivers?

Re:Can-Span (1)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541813)

A spanner is a wrench, no?

No Registration Link & Article Text (3, Informative)

tabkey12 (851759) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541755)

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/01/technology/01spa m.html?ei=5094&en=f7486f68b21cb2cc&hp=&ex=11073204 00&adxnnl=1&partner=homepage&adxnnlx=1107278156-1s aospHSGtVgrInqBD7sAg [nytimes.com]

Article Text:

A year after a sweeping federal antispam law went into effect, there is more junk e-mail on the Internet than ever, and Levon Gillespie, according to Microsoft, is one reason.

Lawyers for the company seemed well on the way to shutting down Mr. Gillespie last September after he agreed to meet them at a Starbucks in Los Angeles near the University of Southern California. There they served him a court summons and a lawsuit accusing him, his Web site and 50 unnamed customers of violating state and federal law - including the year-old federal Can Spam Act - by flooding Microsoft's internal and customer e-mail networks with illegal spam, among other charges.

But that was the last the company saw of the young entrepreneur.

Mr. Gillespie, who operated a service that gives bulk advertisers off-shore shelter from the antispam crusade, did not show up last month for a court hearing in King County, Wash. The judge issued a default judgment against him in the amount of $1.4 million.

In a telephone interview yesterday from his home in Los Angeles, Mr. Gillespie, 21, said he was unaware of the judgment and that no one from Microsoft or the court had yet followed up. But he insisted that he had done nothing wrong and vowed that lawsuits would not stop him - nor any of the other players in the lucrative spam chain.

"There's way too much money involved," Mr. Gillespie said, noting that his service, which is currently down, provided him with a six-figure income at its peak. "And if there's money to be made, people are going to go out and get it."

Since the Can Spam Act went into effect in January 2004, unsolicited junk e-mail on the Internet has come to total perhaps 80 percent or more of all e-mail sent, according to most measures. That is up from 50 percent to 60 percent of all e-mail before the law went into effect.

To some antispam crusaders, the surge comes as no surprise. They had long argued that the law would make the spam problem worse by effectively giving bulk advertisers permission to send junk e-mail as long as they followed certain rules.

"Can Spam legalized spamming itself," said Steve Linford, the founder of the Spamhaus Project, a London organization that is one of the leading groups intent on eliminating junk e-mail. And in making spam legal, he said, the new rules also invited flouting by those intent on being outlaws.

Not everyone agrees that the Can Spam law is to blame, and lawsuits invoking the new legislation - along with other suits using state laws - have been mounted in the name of combating the problem. Besides Microsoft, other large Internet companies like AOL and Yahoo have used the federal law as the basis for suits.

Two prolific spam distributors, Jeremy D. Jaynes and Jessica DeGroot, were convicted under a Virginia antispam law in November, and a $1 billion judgment was issued in an Iowa federal court against three spam marketers in December.

The law's chief sponsor, Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, said that it was too soon to judge the law's effectiveness, although he indicated in an e-mail message that the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees its enforcement, might simply need some nudging.

"As we progress into the next legislative session," Mr. Burns said, "I'll be working to make sure the F.T.C. utilizes the tools now in place to enforce the act and effectively stem the tide of this burden."

The F.T.C. has made some recent moves that include winning a court order in January to shut down illegal advertising from six companies accused of profiting from thousands of X-rated spam e-mail messages. But so far, the spam trade has foiled most efforts to bring it under control.

A growing number of so-called bulletproof Web host services like Mr. Gillespie's offer spam-friendly merchants access to stable offshore computer servers - most of them in China - where they can park their Web sites, with the promise that they will not be shut down because of spam complaints.

Some bulk e-mailers have also teamed with writers of viruses to steal lists of working e-mail addresses and quietly hijack the personal computers of millions of unwitting Internet users, creating the "zombie networks" that now serve, according to some specialists, as the de facto circulatory system for spam.

"We've thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this problem," said Chris Smith, the senior director of product marketing for Postini, a company that filters e-mail for corporations. "And yet, all of these efforts have yet to make a significant dent."

Mr. Smith was speaking in a conference call with reporters last week to discuss Postini's 2005 e-mail security report, which echoed the bleak findings of recent academic surveys and statistics from other vendors that filter and monitor e-mail traffic.

survey from Stanford University in December showed that a typical Internet user now spends about 10 working days a year dealing with incoming spam. Industry analysts estimate that the global cost of spam to businesses in 2005, in terms of lost productivity and network maintenance, will be about $50 billion ($17 billion in the United States alone). And the Postini report concluded that most legislative measures - in the United States, Europe and Australia - have had little impact on the problem.

The American law requires solicitations to be identified as such in the subject line and prohibits the use of fake return addresses, among other restrictions. But the real soft spot in the American law, critics have argued, is that it puts a burden on recipients to choose to be removed from an e-mailers list - an "opt out" feature that bulk mailers are obligated by the law to provide. (The European and Australian systems requires bulk mailers, in most cases, to receive "opt in" authorization from recipients.)

While a law-abiding bulk mailer under the American law might remove a person from its list, critics say, the scofflaw spammer simply takes an opt-out message as verification that the e-mail address is current and has a live person behind it.

"Any spammer worth his salt is not going to follow Can Spam," said Scott Petry, Postini's founder and senior vice president for products and engineering, "because it would be filtered out immediately."

Defenders of the Can Spam Act say blaming any one law is far too simple.

"Most people say it's a miserable failure," said Anne Mitchell, who helped draft the legislation and is the chief executive of the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy, a research group in California. "But I see it as a lawyer would see it. To think that law enforcement agencies can make spam stop right away is silly. There's no such thing as an instant fix in the law."

She and others note that filtering software has become particularly adept at catching the vast majority of spam before it ever gets to a user's in-box. Legitimate e-mail messages do sometimes get caught in such nets - a drawback that generates its own chorus of complaints. But some specialists have also suggested that the overall success of identifying and weeding out junk e-mail from in-boxes may actually help explain the current surge in spam.

"The more effective the filtering technology," Ms. Mitchell said, "the more spam they have to send to get the same dollar rate of return."

Those rates of return can be staggeringly high (and the costs of entry into the market relatively low).

A spammer can often expect to receive anywhere from a 25 percent to a 50 percent commission on any sales of a product that result from a spam campaign, according to a calculus developed by Richi Jennings, an Internet security analyst with Ferris Research, a technology industry consulting firm.

Even if only 2,000 of 200 million recipients of a spam campaign - a single day's response rate for some spammers - actually go to a merchant's Web site to purchase a $50 bottle of an herbal supplement, a spammer working at a 25 percent commission will take in $25,000. If a spammer makes use of anonymous virus-enslaved computers to spread the campaign, expenses like bandwidth payments to Internet service providers are low - as is the likelihood of anyone's tracking down who pushed the "send" button.

The overlapping and truly global networks of spam-friendly merchants, e-mail list resellers, virus-writers and bulk e-mailing services have made identifying targets for prosecution a daunting process. Merchants whose links actually appear in junk e-mail are often dozens of steps and numerous deals removed from the spammers, Mr. Jennings said, and proving culpability "is just insanely difficult."

The new federal law does give prosecutors some leverage to go after the merchants - but it must be proved that they knew, or should have known, that their wares were being fed into the illegal spam chain.

"We wait to see a real test case of that," Mr. Jennings said.

In the meantime, analysts predict, more viruses will commandeer more personal computers as zombie spam transmitters - which besides free relays give spammers a thicker cloak of anonymity. Mr. Jennings estimates that hijacked machines handle 50 percent of the spam stream, and other analysts have put the percentage higher.

Analysts also expect more use of virus bombs - called directory harvest attacks - to wrest working e-mail addresses from Internet service providers. "It's the silent killer of e-mail servers," Mr. Smith of Postini said.

And bulletproof services like Mr. Gillespie's and another, Buprhost.com, are intent on continuing to offer spam-friendly merchants a haven from antispam complaints, starting at $89 a month.

"If your Web site host receives complaints or discovers that your Web site has been advertised in e-mail broadcasts, they may disconnect your account and shut down your Web site," explains Buprhost.com, which promises no such disruptions. "The reason we can do this is that we put your Web site in our overseas server where the local law will protect your Web sites."

"It's very simple," Mr. Petry of Postini said of the junk e-mail scourge. "Spam is technically very easy to send."

Which is why, according to Aaron Kornblum, Microsoft's Internet safety enforcement lawyer, suits against spam enablers like Mr. Gillespie are an important, if incremental, new front to pursue.

"Microsoft's efforts in filing these lawsuits is to stop spammers - and in this case hosting services that cater to spammers - from plying their trade," said Mr. Kornblum, who noted that Microsoft was working to enforce the $1.4 million judgment against Mr. Gillespie.

"Our objective with sustained enforcement activity is to change the economics of spamming, making it a cost-prohibitive business model rather than a profitable one."

More spam (2, Informative)

g0dsp33d (849253) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541761)

Weird, I've been getting less and less. Between my 4 accounts, I only get a few peices of spam a week. And my one account has been used as a spam-sucking email account for online forms etc.

Re:More spam (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541941)

Weird, I've been getting less and less. Between my 4 accounts, I only get a few peices of spam a week. And my one account has been used as a spam-sucking email account for online forms etc.

Yeah, I've been trying to figure this out too. I've got 3 accounts, and 2 never get spam. The third one has some filters set up that eliminates most of the minute amount that is left. I rarely get more than 4 emails a month that I actually have to do anything for.

GREAT EXAMPLE. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541772)

hot-linking: as long as it's a big corporate bitch, it's OK! Way to set an example.

Not quite... (2, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541774)

The figure shows that SPAM increasing rate was more or less the same before and after the CAN-SPAM law.

Ok, in plain text: It didn't accelerate SPAM. It just didn't do anything to stop it.

The problem wtih trying to outlaw spam (3, Insightful)

KiltedKnight (171132) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541780)

When you try to outlaw it in the US, someone will move it to Russia, China, or some other country that would just love to get the money from someone who wants to buy bandwidth, server space, computing power, etc.

The only way we'll actually see a reduction in spam is to put true measures in the MTAs such that there is absolutely no way to mask the sender's address or host, and completely disallow any form of relaying. Then, you have to start setting up the MTAs to not accept any mail delivered by older versions.

Yes, I realize the impact this would have on the internet and e-mail delivery... but if you want to eliminate it, or at least be able to truly identify the sender, this is about the only way to actually do it.

Re:The problem wtih trying to outlaw spam (1)

Kainaw (676073) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541948)

completely disallow any form of relaying.

I know this is not what you mean, but how about making it normal and allowed for mailservers to refuse to transport spam? For instance, a mail from some spammer hits my server and has to be delivered to you. I know it is a spam, so why do I *have* to forward it? Everyone says you have to forward emails becuase it isn't your authority to decide what is and is not spam. That is where this relates - what is your authority to decide relaying is all spam?

In my opinion, it is my server and my choice. If I don't want to forward any emails with the name "David Hasselhof" in them, I should be allowed to do so.

Email is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541794)

Well, not dead, but dying. People aren't going to use something when they spend their time deleting crap they don't want. They'll use something else. Messaging, IP telephony, and similar things spring to mind. It always seems to get past spam filters, however well configured they are. There's nothing quite like seeing 2000 spam emails in your business email account every day to put you off email for life.

Moles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541795)

Can anyone say whack a mole? You either need to re-engineer SMTP or find better ways to remove the economic incentive. Can-Spam was just theater, like most other US legislation.

Stopping Spam (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541810)

The only real way to stop Spam is to take action against the companies using these spammers services.

I realise this might not be the easiest thing in the world to do, given the shady nature of both spammers and their clients but on the whole I would imagine the companies are the kind of companies trading standards etc would be interested in anyway.

What we need is new laws and investment into shutting down dodgy businesses who feel the need to use spamming and other annoying bulk marketing.

IPTables really helps. (5, Informative)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541817)

Just blocking China and Korean IP space from connecting to port 25 does wonders for reducing spam. See: http://www.okean.com/iptables/rc.firewall.sinokore a [okean.com]

Re:IPTables really helps. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541962)

just block the $ sign, stops 99.99% of spam in my inbox and as we (thebuisness) don't deal with that currency it has yet to make a false positive
of course if you use that sign in your currency then its no good for you

A reasonably accurate APNIC assignment reference? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541964)

I've been tempted to block portions of APNIC space, do this but have been stymied by the lack of a decent reference.

Is there one?

Its frustrating sometimes... (1)

Goronmon (652094) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541841)

This is the sad state of journalism these days. Why just claim that something had no affect when you can claim it was worse? Oh I know why, because news has become about entertainment instead of informing the public. And since bad > neutral, you get articles like this.

What's more frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11541977)

is people who can't use correct punctuation (it's frustrating) and correct word choices (had no effect). And since illiteracy > literacy, you get posts like this.

Re:What's more frustrating (1)

Goronmon (652094) | more than 9 years ago | (#11542061)

Haha, it's even more funny that an AC would post something like this. At least if you are going take on this air of superiority, the least you could do would be to create an actual name to do it with ;)

I think the issue is... (4, Informative)

SirFozzie (442268) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541874)

That a great deal of the (uninformed) public and the (uninformed/bribed , take your choice) politicians thought this would at least put a dent in spam here in the US.

Of course, the spammer scum (I know, don't need to add scum, spammer covers it) figure that it's a law for show, which it is..

The top 10 spammers are responsible for something like 3 quarters of the spam sent. If Only half of those spammers were locked up in jail (where you have to admit they belong, because of their tactics, never mind the UCE itself).. spam would drop noticeably.

The law needs to be improved. The law needs to have teeth.. and the law needs to chew some big time spammers.

That's the only thing that'll slow things down.

Spam Has Gone Up (1)

PeteDotNu (689884) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541884)

Is this some sort of density-related thing? Are they whipping the spam more, so that it is fluffy? This surely means that there is a lower percentage of real meat in the product?

Shame on... shame on you.

Missing the point (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541898)

As a bunch of others have pointed out, correlation doesn't demonstrate cause. But more importantly, who cares?

As a user and a domain owner, the overall volume of spam isn't of particular concern for me. (Obviously ISPs and carriers have different priorities.) If CAN-SPAM succeeds even partially in demanding filterable subjects and outlawing address forgeries, that's far more important to me than whether the total volume goes up or down.

Sherlock (1)

MasTRE (588396) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541909)

> Can-Spam Increased Spam

Of course! You can SPAM! DUH!

Saw this on Usenet (5, Interesting)

DSP_Geek (532090) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541917)

I've been wondering this for a while, and the recent article on Slate - http://slate.msn.com/id/2101297 on the economic logic of executing worm writers - compels me to put pen to electron with the following Modest Proposal:

Allow me to set forth a number of propositions:
1) Spam is now 60% or more of all email in the world, and increasing monthly.
2) The lost productivity costs to industry of dealing with spam is estimated to be from $10 billion to $20 billion yearly.
3) There are about 100 to 200 spammers behind 90% of the world's spam.
4) Thus each spammer can be estimated to cost industry globally around $100 million dollars.
5) The EPA and DOT value a human life at between $3 million and $7 million dollars.
6) Many people in the United States are underinsured medically. Some of them need expensive medical care they cannot afford, and therefore die as a result. Call the affordability threshold $100,000 to $1,000,000. If major ISPs and corporations could be ironbound to honour their word, admittedly no small task, then one could posit a regime where:
a) The leading 1000 connectivity consumers place half their antispam spending in escrow
b) Guido the Fish and Two Finger Tony get hired to smoke the top 100 spam offenders, reducing the need for antispam spending worldwide, and freeing the cash for:
c) The escrowed funds then get used to save a large number of lives who would otherwise be lost due to pricy medical care.

At this point, one must ask: What is a spammer's life worth? The economics of the situation means more people get saved than spammers blown away, therefore the sum total is that a greater good is served by the above scheme as more people survive with a higher quality of life than the status quo ante.

Re:Saw this on Usenet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11542049)

However, one more life is saved if you just prevent spammers from spamming, rather than killing them.

This is what happens... (1)

m2bord (781676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541927)

when Legislators listen to the industry its about to regulate when drafting laws to regulate them.

the line in the article that says this legalized spam, is pretty much right.

the only anti-spam laws that can work is to force an opt-in and to also make it criminal to employee/contract with a spammer.

even if you get the current batch of spammers to stop, the money and the drive to spam will remain.

you need to go after the folks like avenue a, and others who pay outside mailers to handle this and don't follow up on who is being spammed.

Yeah, The Feds Really Have the Answer (1)

ClippyHater (638515) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541953)

I recently submitted a complaint about unrequested emails being received, and the sender refusing to stop sending. Got back a nice form letter stating spams a problem, they recommend I delete the spam and simply ignore the problem. My tax dollars hard at work.

Correlation, not causation (2, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541969)

Seriously, spam would have increased without CAN-SPAM. There's no way to establish that CAN-SPAM actually contributed to spam increasing. The increase in spam since the inception of CAN-SPAM only shows that CAN-SPAM isn't succeeding in reducing spam, not that it's causing an increase in spam. /.'s editors should at least TRY to write a decent headline, instead of the usual distored, sensationalist bullshit.

Another study finding. (0)

Raven42rac (448205) | more than 9 years ago | (#11541996)

All the people who ate carrots in 1875 are dead. OMG BAN CARROTS!

I don't think it's the law (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 9 years ago | (#11542007)

Spammers never had scruples to actually follow some law to spread their stuff. Not the majority using zombie nets to send from fake addresses and confirming your e-mail address/executing IE exploit when you click an opt-out link.

It's just the more spam they send, the less likely people are likely to respond, the better spam filters are developed, the more spam they have to send to make money... This will reach a peak and wink out because there would be just no way to make money. Did you see a door-to-door salesman lately.

Global Cost of Spam (2, Interesting)

Standmic (769361) | more than 9 years ago | (#11542018)

A survey from Stanford University estimates the global cost of spam in terms of lost productivity to be at 50 billion dollars.

How can this be? Spam is a pain in the ass when I have spend 1 minute a month checking/deleting the contents of my spam inbox, but I don't see how it costs that much money. Yes, I know time is money and even 1 minute of my time is probably worth something, but I just can't see it adding up to 50 billion. I can see companies purchasing spam blocking software, but again, not 50 billion worth. Could someone please explain where they get this figure from?

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