Welcome to part 2 of this blog series, “The Evolution of Spam.” My previous article described the concept of spam and its historical role in unsolicited offers of products or services. The history of spam is closely tied to the development of electronic communication technologies, particularly email, and it reflects the evolving nature of advertising, promotion, and unwanted communication. This article discusses the status quo of spam and how spam affects the world today.
How does spam affect the world today?
Spam emails comprise approximately 56.5% of all email traffic, encompassing a variety of content from ads and scams to adult material. In fact, approximately 3.4 billion spam emails are sent daily, predominantly through phishing schemes, constituting a significant cybercrime challenge. According to a report by Radicati:
- In December 2021, 45.37% of the total emails were deemed as spam emails.
- From 2020 to 2021, the global spam volume was the highest in July 2021, when 283 billion out of 336.41 billion emails were spam.
- In September 2021, the number of spam emails worldwide was around 88.88 billion out of 105.67 billion emails.
A Brief Categorization of Contemporary Spam
- Email Spam: Email spam remains a persistent issue, with spammers sending unsolicited and often fraudulent emails. They use various techniques to bypass spam filters and reach users' inboxes. Modern spam filters use machine learning and heuristics to analyze email content, sender reputation, and user behavior to classify and filter out spam. However, spammers continually adapt to these technologies, making it a cat-and-mouse game.
- Social Media Spam: Social media platforms are also susceptible to spam. Spammers create fake accounts, post misleading or harmful content, and engage in various forms of deceptive behavior. Machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) technologies are employed to detect spammy content, fake accounts, and unusual activity on social media platforms. These algorithms learn from patterns of behavior to identify and remove spam.
- SMS and Messaging App Spam: Spam has also become prevalent on SMS and messaging apps, where users receive unwanted messages, often promoting scams or phishing attempts. Similar to email and social media, spam detection in messaging apps relies on NLP and machine learning algorithms to identify suspicious or unsolicited content.
- Voice Spam (Robocalls): Voice spam, in the form of robocalls, is a growing problem. Spammers use automated systems to make mass calls, often for fraudulent purposes. Technologies like voice recognition and call analysis are used to identify and block robocalls, but spammers adapt by using tactics like caller ID spoofing.
- Website Comment Spam: Websites with comment sections are often targeted by spammers who leave irrelevant or promotional comments, sometimes with malicious links. Content management systems often employ comment moderation and CAPTCHA technologies to reduce comment spam.
It's important to note that while spam remains a significant issue, the collective efforts of governments, organizations, and technology providers have made progress in mitigating its impact. Nevertheless, spammers continue to adapt and find new ways to evade filters and reach their targets, necessitating ongoing vigilance and investment in anti-spam measures. Stay tuned for part 3 of this blog series discussing one of the hottest current topics right now- generative AI’s impact on spam.