This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

December 20, 2006

Spam Affecting Productivity

When Joyce was in the Direct Marketing industry decades ago, she likened advertising mail (to call it "junk" was sacrilegious) to a flower that blooms in the wrong place. No matter how beautiful it was, it was characterized as "a weed". So it is with unwanted advertising e-mails. We call them "spam".

According to a Reuters report out of London, spam now accounts for a full 90 percent of all e-mails. The report details that "criminal gangs using hijacked computers are behind a surge in unwanted e-mails peddling sex, drugs, and stock tips".

A U.S. e-mail security company, Postini, reports that "The number of spam messages has tripled since June and now accounts for as many as nine out of ten e-mails sent worldwide". Reuters observed that "as Christmas approaches, the daily trawl through in-boxes clogged with offers of fake Viagra, loans, and sex aids is tipped to take even longer." Taking longer not only reduces productivity, but also increases the visibility of the "advertising" messages.

In November, Postini detected an astounding 7 billion spam e-mails across the globe, compared to 2.5 billion in June. "About 200 illegal gangs are behind 80 percent of unwanted e-mails, according to Spamhaus, a spam-tracking agency.

To create these billions of spam messages, millions of home computers are hijacked to send these increasingly annoying unwanted messages e-mails. These "zombie networks", also called "botnets", can link 100,000 home computers unbeknownst to their owners’. These networks are then leased to gangs who use their enormous "free" computing power to send millions of e-mails with relative anonymity.

A study released last year by the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business reported that computer users spent an average of three minutes a day or 22.9 million hours per week deleting spam e-mail. That time translated to a loss of productivity and a financial loss of $21.58 billion per year. And that was last year when spam levels were far lower than they are now. All of these numbers make the case for a investing in more robust spam-blocking software to reduce the loss of productivity.

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